We are less than a full day away from first-pitch against Colorado State in Palm Springs (Cathedral City), California to begin Georgia’s play in the newly named Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. For over a decade, the tournament was called the Cathedral City Classic, or the CCC, as many collectively would refer to the annual gathering of some of the best talent in Division 1 Softball. The name may be new, but the competition are still the same, hard-nosed, athletic girls this year, same as always. Georgia takes on quite a lofty schedule at the tournament, squaring off against (#2/2)Oklahoma, (#17/20) Stanford, (#22/22)Washington, Cal-Poly, and Colorado State. Oklahoma is the only undefeated team Georgia will face coming into play at the tournament.
But first, for those of you who are wondering who the heck Mary Nutter is:
(From the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic Official Website) “Mary Nutter, who started the National Sports Clinics (NSC) more than 25 years ago to provide softball coaches at all levels access to the highest quality instruction, died from a heart attack in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 24, (2012) while vacationing in Colorado. Nutter, who had a successful eight-year career as head coach at Pittsburg State (Kan.) prior to founding NSC, found her true calling in 1980 when she ran her first softball clinic in Kansas City while still coaching at Pittsburg State. In 1984, she moved her clinic to Chicago, and then expanded to three clinics in 1985. In 1987, National Sports Clinics was incorporated, and thousands of coaches have benefitted from her work. Growing up in Michigan, Nutter was an outstanding player for the Lansing Laurels, an ASA Women’s Major fastpitch team, and she spent one year (1976) as a player/coach for the Michigan Travelers of the Women’s Professional Softball League. Nutter was twice named Women’s Major first team All-American (1974 and 1975). “Mary was the nicest, sweetest human being that I’ve ever been around and was a proud Spartan,” Michigan State Head Coach Jacquie Joseph said about Nutter who attended Michigan State. “She gave a lot to the game but gave even more to the human race. It’s a profound loss.” After going to school at Michigan State, Nutter began teaching in 1970 in Elsie, Michigan. She taught there until 1977 when she began her collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. She spent three seasons there before moving to Pittsburg State. In 1981, she claimed her first of three NAIA District 10 championships and District 10 Coach of the Year awards. She was named District 10 Coach of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1985. Her 1981 Pittsburg team finished fourth at the NAIA national championship, and overall, Nutter had a 204-125 record at the institution. She also served as an assistant coach for the 1983 Pan American Tri-Nations team and as a member of the 1984 U.S. Pan American selection committee. She was honored in 1988 as an inductee of the NAIA Hall of Fame, and inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame in 1997. Besides running the National Sports Clinics, Nutter loved to cook and started a catering business with a friend about five years ago.”
Mary Nutter will be missed, as will her impacting influence and advocacy for fastpitch. (Courtesy Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic Official Website)
Georgia begins play in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic this Thursday against Colorado State at 1:30PM EST and this will be their first away game since playing against Florida State in Fall Ball. Georgia comes into the annual tournament with a 6-2 record after going 3-0 in last weekend’s Georgia Softball Classic. In the 2012 version of this very tournament (was still the Cathedral City Classic), a very under-the-radar Georgia softball team came in and posted a 4-1 record, defeating Oklahoma (W, 3-2), Cal Fullerton (W, 12-5), Arizona (W, 3-0), and UCLA (W, 13-4). Georgia’s lone loss last year in this tournament was to the Washington Huskies (L, 5-7). Georgia led that game 5-4 going into the final inning of play and Erin Arevalo gave up three runs, en route to the Huskies securing a win. After their great play at the tournament in 2012, Georgia jumped 5+ spots in both polls last year–going to show how heavily people weigh this tournament against you! I am super excited to see how the girls do playing in a little warmer weather and playing at a neutral site!
Georgia faces Colorado State for the first time in as long as I can remember this weekend in the tournament. Colorado State is coming into the event with a 6-4 record, including some impressive wins against Texas Tech and BYU. So far this season, the CSU Rams are led at the plate by junior infielder, Alysa Greckel, who is batting a .393 clip with 5 RBI and 13 total bases. In the circle, the Rams are led by senior Pitcher, Kacie McCarthy, who comes in with a 4-2 record and a 2.85 ERA. McCarthy has recorded 27 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched so far this season. I honestly do not know much about this particular program, but anytime you can beat two quality teams in back-to-back weeks as the underdog, you deserve more than your share of credit! Excited to have this as the opening match-up despite having to watch it from the office on GameTracker…shoot me now!
In the second game of the first day of the Marry Nutter Collegiate Classic, Georgia will face a more-than-formiddable opponent in the form of the (#2/2)Oklahoma Sooners at 4:00PM EST. Oklahoma comes in to Cathedral City with a perfect 10-0 record, defeating an insane variety of opponents along the way; Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Northwestern, New Mexico, Kentucky, Washington, UC Riversde, San Diego State, and Notre Dame have all been toppled by the daunting Sooners so far this early in 2013. My eyes are literally bulging out of my head right now as I let all of that soak in…wow! In their most recent outing, the Sooners faced Notre Dame and it took them 9 innings to finally defeat them by a final score of 7-5. I want to know what the Irish put in their coffee and/or what they had for breakfast before that game, haha! The Sooners have an entire arsenal of offensive Juggernauts, but are led at the plate by Lauren Chamberlain. The sophomore infielder is batting a.556 clip with 6 home runs and 17 RBI. Surprising as it may be, the Sooners are led in the circle by Senior pitcher, Michelle Gascoigne, who is carrying a 0.68 ERA with only 31 innings pitched and a whopping 59 strikeouts! Don’t let these statistics fool you because Michelle is an incredible talent in the circle and would be the #1 on almost any other NCAA D1 team, but we all know that the spotlight is completely on Keilani Ricketts. Ricketts was the 2012 National Softball Player of the Year–the nation’s most prestigious award for D1 softball–last season and is looking to perform even better this year. Ricketts spent some of 2012 playing for the USA Women’s National Team and had a fantastic year in her first stint of international pitching experience. Oh yeah, and did I mention Ricketts can hit? She is batting an eye-popping .462 with 9RBI, two of those runs batted in coming from the long ball. Oklahoma is the most intimidating team (in my opinion) in the entire country and are extremely strong on offense all the way through the order. It should be a very lesson-learning kind of game, win or lose, and I cannot wait to square off against the Sooners! I think we will get Ricketts and Arizona, who plays the Sooners after us, will get Gascoigne. I want to get it over with! Can they just move it to tonight? 😉
Keilani Ricketts & Lauren Chamberlain high-fiving at a game in 2012. (Courtesy SoonerSports.com)
On the second day of play, Georgia begins play against a gritty Cal-Poly squad at 1:30PM EST. Just last week, the Mustangs defeated the Washington Huskies by a final of 2-0. The Mustangs enter play with a 2-8 record overall, but have lost six of their eight games by only one run, including one-run losses to Stanford, Notre Dame, and Kentucky. The Mustangs are led at the plate by junior infielder Kim Westlund. Westlund has tallied a .379 average on the season with 3 RBI and 6 runs scored. In the circle, the Cal-Poly team is led by Chloe Wurst. The sophomore lefty has a 3.56 ERA and carries a 1-2 record to her stat line. Those single-run losses were to some very talented teams, and similarly to Colorado State, this is a mid-major program that could make some noise at the tournament!
Georgia closes the second day of play with a match-up against the Stanford Cardinal at 4PM EST. The Cardinal enter the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with an impressive 10-2 record, and have recorded wins against some very good teams. Stanford, year in and year out, is considered to be one of the Top 20-25 teams in the country and will be very challenging to contend with. This young group is paced offensively by the bat of Tegan Schmidt, although Schmidt only has 15 at-bats on the season. Hanna Winter, the team’s leader in number of plate appearances, is batting a .326 clip with 2 RBI. Stanford has two very talented pitchers in the circle for them in 2013, starting with the freshman from Volcano Vista High School, Kelsey Stevens. Stevens is carrying a 5-1 record and a 1.50 ERA; she has fanned 49 batters in only 37.1 innings pitched. On the other hand, the Cardinal also have Senior pitcher, Teagan Gerhart. On the season, Gerhart is also 5-1 and has a 1.82 ERA. It is interesting to note that the rookie pitcher, Stevens, held the Sooners to only one run in her outing against them. She relieved Gerhart early in the game, after Teagan had given up five earned runs–four of them coming from the long ball. Kentucky is the only other team in the nation to have beaten the Cardinal this early in the season. But, without a doubt, Stanford is going to be another early test for the Georgia Bulldogs!
In 2013, Stanford will turn to freshman pitcher Kelsey Stevens (pictured above) to help Gerhart with the load. (Courtesy Stanford Athletics)
On Saturday Georgia will close out the tournament with a game against the Washington Huskies. This gets my RED and BLACK blood to pumping just thinking about this match-up as it has been one of the better PAC-SEC rivalries of the past 4 years. Georgia played Washington five times in the 2009 season, once in 2010, did not play them in 2011, and played them last year. The 2009 meetings came at the Easton BIG TEN vs. SEC Challenge in Tuscaloosa (was hosted by Alabama). The teams split 1-1 with each other, each beating the other by identical 2-o scores. Little did the Huskies and Bulldogs know that this dogfight would play out a few more times in the near future. That same year, the two teams squared off three times in the Women’s College World Series–Georgia’s first appearance in the prestigious tournament. Georgia suffered a loss in the first game of the tournament against the Huskies by a 6-4 score, before beating them 9-8 to force the IF-game. I will never forget that game, although now I find myself questioning the score, haha! Brianna Hesson drew a bases-loaded walk from National POY, Danielle Lawrie, to win the game in walk-off fashion for the Dawgs. Washington would then turn around and knock the Dawgs out of their first ever WCWS run. The very next year, Georgia beat the then-#1 ranked Huskies in the opening round of the Women’s College World Series by a 7-4 score on a game-winning home run to center field by Megan Wiggins. Arizona would go on to beat the Huskies next and knock them out of the tournament. Ah, sweet justice! That is probably my number one Georgia softball moment, right next to the 2010 game versus the NPF All-Stars! While the two teams did not square off in 2011, last year they faced off in this very same tournament. Georgia was winning heading into the seventh inning but allowed three runs and took the heartbreaking loss. There have been some absolutely great games between these teams and it truly is a dogfight each and every time. Washington is currently led at the plate by junior 1B, Hooch Fagaly, who is batting a whopping .467 clip with 2 long balls and 8 RBI. The Huskies are led in the circle by Bryana Walker, who has a 1.72 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched. I am stoked for this game!
The team is young and still getting in their groove, but the freshmen are performing incredibly. Each and every one of their averages, slugging %’s, and other stats are incredible for rookies–heck, they’re impressive no matter who you are! Looking back last year’s statistics after the first two weeks compared to the first two weeks of this year, the freshmen are batting 0.87 higher than last year’s rookies–pretty dang impressive! A lot of people have said that we do not match up well with Oklahoma because of our lefty hitters and because of how young the team is. I say to you doubters, Kool-Aide drinkers, and haters: Any team can be beaten on any day and I sure as day hope that my Georgia Bulldogs can blow some people’s mind and dominate this tournament! It is going to be an amazing weekend of softball, and if it weren’t for my demanding work schedule, I would be there.
Oh well…I will be there in spirit. 😦
Cannot wait until first pitch! As always, Go Dawgs!!!
2013 Georgia Softball team cheering on the on-deck batter at the beginning of a game. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com)