HOOVER, Ala. -- Ron Polk didn't leave for Georgia harboring any delusions of postseason grandeur.
To be sure, Polk's Georgia baseball team needed a victory over Alabama on Friday -- and two more, perhaps -- to hold out legitimate hope of securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
But after their 12-4 loss to the Crimson Tide in an elimination game of the SEC Tournament, the seventh-seed Bulldogs headed back to Athens with every indication that their first season under Polk is indeed over.
"I'm very proud of our kids," said Polk, who led Georgia (32-26) to its biggest turnaround in a quarter century during his first season at the Bulldogs helm. "I know they're disappointed, because this was an important ballgame for them ... Maybe if we could have won (Friday) and beat LSU (today), the NCAA Baseball Committee would have to consider Georgia."
But after the Bulldogs gave their fans reason to believe with a 5-0 victory over No. 10 Mississippi State on Thursday, Alabama kicked the Bulldogs off their razor-thin tightrope a day later with a five-run fourth inning, then mounted a four-run barrage in the seventh that ended it, thanks to the tournament's eight-run mercy rule that goes into effect after seven innings.
The rule also affected Georgia on Wednesday, when its 11-3 loss to Louisiana State was called in the eighth. The six-seed Tide (38-12) advances to play second-seed LSU today at 11 a.m.
Polk's odds of procuring Georgia's first NCAA appearance since 1992 are about as slim as his chances of finding a reliable pitcher Friday. Alabama shelled six Bulldogs pitchers for 14 hits and 11 earned runs, six of them coming on three home runs by Kelley Gulledge, Aaron Clark and Ben King.
"What hurt us was the home run balls," Polk said. "This is not a home run ballpark."
Georgia starting pitcher Bill Sharpton (3-5) left the game in the fourth after Alabama turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead.
Tide starter Jeremy Vaughn (7-2) lasted the duration and gave Georgia a chance by giving up 11 hits, but the Bulldogs stranded eight runners.
Georgia took three from Alabama in the regular season, the first time in Alabama coach Jim Wells' six years that the Tide has been swept in an SEC series.
"It's tough to beat an SEC team four times in a row," Polk said.
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