Georgia Edged by Upstate, Prepares to Host Texas A&M This Weekend

In what may be one of the more unusual stat sheets of the season, the USC-Upstate Spartans managed to edge the Georgia Bulldogs by a final score of 8-5, despite only registering 4 hits through the entire seven inning contest. Georgia led the game 4-0 after two innings and Chelsea Wilkinson threw 4 innings of perfect ball. Nonetheless, costly errors and a wretched call at second base sealed Georgia’s fate as they were unable to mount a comeback against a very talented and well-coached Spartans team. While the loss was somewhat disheartening, there were a lot of positive things to be taken away from the contest. Chelsea Wilkinson was absolutely wonderful in the circle and is heating up at the perfect time for the Dawgs! Not only this, but the Bulldogs pounded out 11 hits off a very talented Upstate pitching staff, despite scoring only 5 runs in the outing.

No offense to the Spartans, but if Georgia is going to be more competitive and go far in the post season, we are going to have to fight in the face of adversity and beat any mid-major programs that we face, Upstate being no exception. The girls tried to rally in both the sixth and seventh innings, but alas could not get timely hitting from the power hitters to score the slappers that had reached base. The good thing that can be drawn from this outing is that both Niaja Griffin and Sam LaZear are on fire at the plate and are finding consistent ways to get on base for our big hitters. This loss to Upstate means nothing in the long run, as the girls should be focused on beating the teams we need to beat in conference. The best teams in the country have very short memories and learn to use the painful losses as game fuel to power their aggression. Here’s hoping for a great weekend against some very stiff competition in the form of the Texas A&M Aggies!

Sophomore slap-hitter Niaja Griffin went 3-4 on Wednesday against USC Upstate.

Sophomore slap-hitter Niaja Griffin went 3-4 on Wednesday against USC Upstate. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

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On Friday, Georgia welcomes the 11th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to Jack Turner Stadium for the first game of what should prove to be a very exciting three-game SEC series. Not only is Texas A&M having a great year thus far, but it is noteworthy that 2013 marks the Aggies first year as members of the Southeastern Conference. I can think of no better way to welcome the Aggies to the SEC than with a Bulldog series win! 😀

Texas A&M enters Athens with an impressive 35-9 record, despite sporting a 6-8 conference record. If that does not attest to just how tough of a conference the SEC is, then I do not know what does. In their most recent SEC outing, the Aggies dropped two out of their three games against the LSU Tigers in College Park. TAMU has beaten their fair share of ranked foes this year…Alabama, Missouri, UCLA, Louisiana-Lafayette, and LSU to name just a few. The Aggies are one of the more powerful hitting teams in the SEC and can hit the long ball at just about any pitstop in the batting order. The Aggies have hit a whopping 76 bombs on the year, just three less than our nation-leading Bulldogs. No doubt about it, pitching is going to have to step up big time against this feared Aggies line-up in order to stand a chance against some of their offensive talent, but with the way Chelsea Wilkinson has been throwing, I would look to her to get one or two starts this weekend.

The Aggies are led at the plate by sophomore slugger, Nicole Morgan. Morgan is batting a .372 clip with 14 home runs and 48 RBI, while stellar rookie Cali Lanphear is batting .359 with 15 home runs and 43 runs driven in. These two young ladies supply a large portion of the power on this Aggies squad, although TAMU has three other batters who have all belted ten home runs on the season (May, Dumezich, and Tycarczyk). The scary thing about this batting order is that they can take you deep at any stop along the way 1-9, and they also have speedy lefties placed in the order also. No doubt about it, this team knows how to score runs against any pitching they see, hence why we are really going to have to buckle down on defense and make it easier on our pitchers than we have been as of late. LSU was able to dominate the TAMU hitters for the most part, and I think if we can come out firing on all cylinders in this series that we have a good chance of scoring more runs than the Aggies in at least two of the contests.

It would be extremely naive to think that the Aggies have defeated the top-notch teams that they have on the back of a solid offense alone. This is certainly not the case in 2013. Mel Dumezich has proved to be the workhorse so far this year, as she has pitched 174 out of the 275 innings this season for the Aggies. Dumezich has amassed a 2.13 ERA to go along with a 23-6 record and has fanned 188 batters in 174 innings pitched. There is no denying that the TAMU squad relies heavily on good pitching performances from Dumezich, although they have often went to their #2 pitcher, Lauren Ainsley (11-3, 2.21 ERA), when needed. After watching Dumezich perform against LSU and against Tennessee, she has shown that while she is very talented, she can get rattled at times and give up the dreaded long ball. It helps that we tend to hit fast pitching well, and that we tend to hit a lot of long balls as well. If our slappers can stay hot and keep getting on base in front of our power hitters, expect the Dawgs to score their fair share of runs.

Texas A&M star pitcher, Mel Dumezich, in action during a 2013 game. (Courtesy ESPN.com)

Texas A&M is chock-full of talent in every position on the field, as well as in every spot in the batting order. Georgia is going to have to play the best they have the entire season and for a full seven innings in each contest. We have been a little inconsistent at times, but I know without a doubt that we can take 2/3 teams from these TAMU Aggies. What should help fuel the girls at this time of the year is the fact that there are so many people out there who are doubting what they can do. Outside noise, heartbreaking losses, and an aggressive attitude are surely serving as fuel to push this team to want to come out and dominate the Aggies. The fun thing is that this team has not yet fully reached its true potential, although the home stretch of the season is now and the finish line is barely in our sights. I have complete confidence and faith that this team is going to come out this weekend and play their hearts out for every out on the field. The key to winning is playing good ole’ fashioned Georgia Softball and making it a nightmare for the opponent to have to come in to Athens and play us.

When all is said and done, only one team will win the last game of the season, and the possibilities are endless as there is a lot of great talent playing between the chalk lines here in 2013. But, my point is that every team has their shot and their set of chances, and now is our time to grasp the opportunities and push hard to win! The goal is to win the last game of the season while picking up some very good, competitive wins along the way. I have said it once, and I will say it again: there is nothing scarier than a group of stud softballers that have all the confidence in the world. I believe in this team and know that great things are headed their way, although they are going to have to push themselves and play inspiring ball for a full 21 innings this weekend. I believe!!!

As always, Go Dawgs!!!

#BeatTAMU          #CommitToTheG          #SicEm

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