It's tournament time in the NCAA. Georgia Southern has been wildly successful in spring sports in recent years — by mid-major standards — and there's a lot on the line for the Eagles as spring begins to turn over into summer.
A title to defend
The Georgia Southern softball team had high expectations heading into the 2013 season, and in many ways, didn't disappoint. The defending SoCon champs got what they expected from their No. 1 pitcher.
Sarah Purvis was named Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year for the second season in a row. She tossed a perfect game against Southern Illinois in an early-season tournament, and capped off the season one strike away from a no hitter against SoCon regular-season champion Appalachian State. It was the fourth time in five years a GSU pitcher was given the league's top pitcher honor.
The Eagles (28-27, 14-9 SoCon) wound up with the No. 3 seed heading into the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., but ended the regular season on a high note with the series win over App.
In tournament time, the team with the best pitcher usually has the best shot, and the Eagles fit that bill.
As usual, the only way to gain a spot in the NCAA tournament is with the league's automatic bid, so the Eagles can put a regular season in which they barely finished over .500 behind them.
No. 6 Chattanooga will be the Eagles' first opponent at the tourney on Wednesday.
An NCAA fixture
Georgia Southern golf coach Larry Mays is no stranger to the NCAA tournament, and 2013 is no exception.
While the Eagles finished a modest fifth in the Southern Conference tournament, their three wins and six Top-5 finishes during the season were more than enough to garner another at-large bid.
It's the 10th NCAA bid for Mays and GSU's 11th in program history. It's also the fourth in the last five seasons.
The Eagles will be the No. 9 seed in the Columbus, Ohio, regional, joined by No. 8 Chattanooga, the SoCon's champion.
Georgia Southern is led by SoCon golfer of the year Scott Wolfes, a two-time individual tournament winner.
A lot on the line
The Georgia Southern baseball team (25-23, 13-14 SoCon) has a lot to play for over the final two weeks of the regular season.
First off, nobody in the SoCon has offered a resume worthy of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, so the Eagles, like everybody else in the league, had better get hot before the tournament.
Still, though, a spot in the eight-team field at the SoCon tournament is not yet a guarantee. Momentum may not be the only thing on the line when GSU faces Charleston on the last weekend of the regular season.
The Eagles have never missed the SoCon tournament since joining the league in 1993.
Also, GSU coach Rodney Hennon has never won fewer than 30 games in his 15-year coaching career. That's in jeopardy too, with only seven games left, including three this weekend against Clemson.
The Eagles have won more than 30 games every year since 1999, and have had only two sub-30 win seasons since 1972 (1998 and 1999).
The Eagles have had only four losing seasons (1950, 1951, 1971, 1998) in program history.
Georgia Southern has as good a shot at winning the 2013 SoCon tournament as just about anybody, but if they're not careful, the Eagles could make the wrong kind of history this year.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.