Georgia Wins Series, Throttles 7th-Ranked LSU 10-5

On a day where it seemed that rain was going to ruin any chance of Georgia playing their Strike Out Cancer game against No. 7 LSU, the weather cleared up perfectly and Georgia rallied to defeat the Tigers by a 10-5 final score. Morgan Montemayor (12-6) picked up the win in the circle after relieving Geri Ann Glasco, while LSU’s Ashley Czechner (10-1) suffered her first loss of the year. Despite trailing 5-2 in the fifth inning, Georgia mounted a huge comeback to erase the deficit and pull ahead by a comfortable margin.

Words cannot express how proud I am for what this team has been able to accomplish over the past 3 weeks. After playing back-to-back-to-back series against Texas A&M, Florida, and LSU, the girls are now 6-2 against Top 15 competition and 3-2 over Top 10 foes in the  past three weeks! It is insane to think about some of the quality wins that our Dawgs are piling up, especially when you consider the youth and inexperience that many thought would be the death of us this season. It seems that the offense has caught fire and that pitching is confident in the circle with the way our bats have been. Although the SEC season was tough at times and proved to be quite stressful on some of us fans, our Bulldogs have rounded the corner and are looking strong heading into the SEC Tournament in Lexington.

Geri Ann Glasco started Sunday's game in the circle against 7th-ranked LSU

Geri Ann Glasco started Sunday’s game in the circle against 7th-ranked LSU. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

In Lexington, Georgia will be the #5 seed and will face off against none other than the #4 seeded LSU Tigers. It looks as if we will end up getting three games in, after all! In some ways, I am confident that we can handle the Tigers again, although it is hard to beat any team in the SEC three times in a season. When you throw in Fico and Bianka Bell, the Bayou Bengals are a tough squad! Here’s hoping for a stellar SEC Tournament and an even better post season!

In today’s game, Georgia jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second with two outs. With Anna Swafford and Niaja Griffin on first and third base, respectively, they executed a perfect double steal to give Georgia the 1-0 lead. Paige Wilson promptly followed by tattooing a rise ball from Ashley Czechner over the head of Simone Heyward in right field to make the score 2-0. The LSU bats would come alive to tie the game in the fourth inning 2-2 and eventually pull ahead 5-2 in the fifth inning after a bases loaded HBP and a two-run double.

LSU led the Georgia Bulldogs by a 5-2 tally heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but it would now be Georgia’s turn to put on a hitting clinic off of Czechner. Anna Swafford led off the fifth inning with a monster home run over the trees and scoreboard in left field. When I watched the replay of her bomb on WatchEspn, I got a kick out of how Michelle commented on how hard it was hit! Georgia would settle for only one run in the fifth, but would go on to score seven runs in the bottom of the sixth. Katie Browne started the Georgia scoring off with a clutch two-run double to the gap in left center to score LaZear and Olney. With the game tied, Anna Swafford hit a hot shot to Tammy Wray at third and reached via the error, in turn scoring Tiesha Reed from third base. Paige Wilson followed with yet another moonshot home run, her 15th of the season, to dead center field. It got even sweeter as Geri Ann Glasco followed by taking the first pitch she saw from Czechner to dead center for back-t0-back long balls for the Bulldogs. Georgia would carry a convincing 10-5 lead into the bottom of the final frame of the game.

Senior Christine Olney connects for a base hit to left field on Sunday against LSU.

Senior Christine Olney connects for a base hit to left field on Sunday against LSU. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

In the bottom of the 7th inning, the seventh ranked team in the country threatened to cut into Georgia’s lead, but Morgan Montemayor had other plans. With the bases loaded and two outs, MoMo induced a weak groundout back to the circle that she fielded for the final out of the contest. Morgan is showing every day that she is such a huge threat as a closer and that she is going to be one of the key pieces to getting deep into the post season! Go MoMo! Keep up the awesome work!

Although we may hear a chorus of people try to convince us that we beat LSU’s number two pitcher, I would like to point out that our 24th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs handed Czechner her first loss of the year. I was very impressed with Czechner in the beginning, but she slowly came unraveled as the batters started making better contact. I hope for Beth Torina and Czechner’s sake that she is able to improve because I do not know who else LSU has to pitch next year! Overall, I think LSU is a very good squad and we are not out of the water with them just yet. In fact, we play them in less than a week in the Quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Lexington on ESPNU. The game will be broadcast LIVE on ESPNU and WatchEspn at approximately 1:30 PM Eastern Time on Thursday.

Once again, we are getting the job done with some timely defense and some even better hitting. We are going to need to continue the hot streak at the plate in order to get wins over the big teams, but what will be even more key is constantly mixing up the pitching versatility/rotation. Geri Ann has shown that she can be very effective against teams for anywhere from 2-4 innings. After that, all the opposing hitters do are get down their timing because she lacks that killer off-speed pitch that many successful SEC pitchers have. Once she adds in the off-speed to go in with the change/screw/rise/drop she will be excellent. Chelsea had limited innings in this series and I am glad we did not have to show her off too much because I would guess that she gets the start against them on Thursday in the SEC Tournament. You cannot say enough about how good Wilkinson has been the past few Fridays against the likes of A&M and Florida, and I truly think she will continue this hot streak against some big teams here down the home stretch.

One thing is for sure, Georgia is on a surge and I have the feeling that they aren’t gonna be looking back anytime soon. It will be a tough task to beat LSU for a third consecutive time, and this time we will have to do it at a neutral site. At neutral sites in 2013, our Georgia Bulldogs are 6-4 overall. I really think that we can get an awesome performance from both our pitchers and offense against Fico and LSU in Lexington!

Excited to hear that the program raised almost $6,000 for breast cancer awareness, and it was so cool to see the breast cancer survivor throw out the first pitch. The crowd was awesome considering the way the weather was all morning, but who would have known that the sun would have came out? With the way the team played today, maybe the girls should wear the pink jerseys until we lose a game. Maybe they’re good luck! Haha! 😀

As always, Go Dawgs!

PS: Here’s hoping Paige Wilson gets POW! 5-7 with 3 HR and 6 RBI. Nice!

Niaja Griffin went 2-3 on Sunday, collected 2 slap hits off of Ashley Czechner of LSU

Niaja Griffin went 2-3 on Sunday, collecting 2 slap hits off of Ashley Czechner of LSU. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

Wilson, No. 24 Georgia Slug Past No. 7 LSU in Series Opener

On an evening that began with storms moving through the area, Mother Nature took a back seat and let Georgia supply all the necessary thunder as the Bulldogs defeated 7th-ranked LSU by a final score of 10-7. For the Bulldogs, Chelsea Wilkinson picked up the win in the circle and Morgan Montemayor pitched lights out to earn the save. Georgia is now 5-2 against Top 15 competition in the past few weeks and will look to claim the series over LSU on Saturday as long as the weather cooperates.

Paige Wilson connects for a solo home run off of LSU's Rachele Fico.

Paige Wilson connects for a solo home run off of LSU’s Rachele Fico. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

Despite trailing heading into the bottom of the opening frame after a Bianka Bell two-run home run that barely fell over the left field wall, Georgia responded with a run in the bottom of the inning. After Anna Swafford popped out for the first out of the contest, Paige Wilson pressed play on a bomb that sailed over the trees in dead center field. Paige absolutely CRUSHED that ball and I think it is yet to come down! With the score situated at 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Georgia exploded for eight runs to pull ahead by a 9-2 margin. The scoring began after Tina Iosefa was beamed with a pitch on the helmet with the bases loaded. With the game now tied at 2-2, Kaylee “Moose” Puailoa promptly followed with a hard single up the middle to put the Dawgs ahead 3-2. Tess Sito flew out for the first out of the inning and Christine Olney followed with a bases-clearing double to the gap in right center field. What a great way for Olney to get her Senior Weekend going! Despite taking a comfortable lead at 6-2, Georgia would continue the scoring outbreak when Niaja Griffin hit a laser-beam triple to left field that alluded the LSU left fielder to score two more runs. After an Anna Swafford ground ball brought the score to 9-2, LSU finally escaped the inning, but not before the damage had been done.

Similarly to the Bulldogs, the Bayou Bengals refused to lay down and surrender such an important game to our 24th-ranked squad. The Tigers tacked on a run in the top of the 4th inning after Jacee Blades slapped an RBI infield single to score Lauren Houston from third base. Georgia pitching dealt the Tigers a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth frame, but LSU started a big rally in the sixth inning. Believe it or not, but LSU’s speedy slapper, A.J. Andrews, jacked a three-run shot over the wall to score three runs and bring the score to a 9-6 margin. The Tigers managed to score another run on a controversial call off the bat of Sandra Simmons, but Georgia followed with a ground out to Tess Sito to end the LSU rally. Sandra Simmons launched a ball off of Morgan Montemayor that bounced off the top of the wall and fell back into play. The umpires never signaled home run and called it a “live ball,” despite numerous members of the LSU coaching staff racing onto the field and arguing the call. It was so funny to see former UGA catcher Krystin Sandberg wearing purple and arguing against the Bulldogs on what she and other LSU fans believed to have been a home run.

In the bottom of the 6th inning with the score situated at 9-7, Paige Wilson hit her second monster home run of the day, this time an absolute moonshot over the scoreboard. Paige appeared to be much more patient at the plate in yesterday’s game and she waited on the LSU pitchers to come right at her before lashing out. It is awesome that Wilson was able to sandwich a drag bunt single to Tammy Wray at third base in between her two bombs! Morgan Montemayor ended the game by retiring the LSU batters in order in the top of the 7th and final inning. Georgia defeated LSU by a final score of 10-7.

Although we ended up surrendering two home runs and seven runs (six earned), I think our pitching did well against a very tough 7th-ranked LSU team. Chelsea Wilkinson struggled a little bit against the speedy lefty batters from LSU, and I think this is due in part to the fact that slappers only have to get to contact rather than putting a “great” swing on a ball. Chelsea has a lot of movement and spin on the ball, but all LSU had to do was make contact when their slappers were at the plate. Morgan Montemayor entered in relief for Wilkinson and pitched an incredible game, surrendering just a lone run. MoMo’s off-speed was killer and she looked to be in beast mode in the circle! Go MoMo! Go Chelsea!

Tess Sito covers the second base bag in Friday's contest against LSU.

Tess Sito covers the second base bag in Friday’s contest against LSU. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

I cannot say enough about the way our bats performed against one of the top pitchers in the country in the form of Rachele Fico. I am not sure on this, but I would be willing to say that we are the only team in the country to tally eight earned runs off of Fico in one contest. Building upon that statement, I am 100% confident that we are the only team this season and perhaps ever to score eight earned runs off of Fico in a single inning! Although the Tigers have a good number two behind Fico in the form of Czechner, I would bet a lot of money that the Bulldogs will go up against Fico again in Game 2.

How about the Bulldog defense as of late? Tess Sito made a diving grab on the infield early in the game and helped Georgia escape a dangerous LSU rally by gloving a hot shot on the infield in the sixth inning. Niaja Griffin once again made a web gem catch in center field, this time off the bat of Sandra Simmons as she extended her arm over her shoulder to make the catch before crashing into the wall. After this brilliant catch, the crowd roared and stood to their feet while Georgia’s players mobbed Griffin in the outfield to congratulate her on the incredible snag!

Game 2 was originally set to start at 1pm but has already been delayed twice due to inclement weather. Here’s hoping that the Dawgs and the Tigers get a chance to battle it out for the series in Games 2 & 3. Keep it up, ladies! We believe!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#BeatLSU           #CommitToTheG         #RoadToWCWS         #HereKittyKitty

Niaja Giriffin is congratulated by teammates in Friday's contest after making a web gem catch against the wall in center field.

Niaja Giriffin is congratulated by her teammates in Friday’s contest after making a web gem catch against the wall in center field. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

No. 24 Georgia Concludes Regular Season in Athens Against No. 7 LSU

Our 24th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will conclude the 2013 Regular Season at home against the 7th-ranked LSU Tigers from Baton Rouge this Friday-Sunday in the friendly confines of Jack Turner Stadium. LSU enters Athens after convincingly sweeping Alabama at Tiger Stadium.  The Tigers have improved their record greatly in comparison to this time time last year and are sporting an impressive 40-11 (15-6 SEC) tally. Not only has the entire LSU squad improved in part because of some stellar rookie players, but also because of the veteran ace in the circle, Rachele Fico. Fico will enter Athens as the reigning NFCA National Player of the Week after notching two wins against a very quality Alabama Crimson Tide team.

At the beginning of the season, many people doubted what exactly LSU would be capable of in the SEC with such a young squad and virtually no pitching depth behind Fico. The Tigers have made a lot of people eat crow as they have shown that they not only have a great number-two pitcher behind Fico (Ashley Czechner; 10-0, 2.37 ERA), but that their offense is capable of outscoring many quality opponents. The Tigers have many impressive wins on their resumé in 2013, Michigan, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky to name just a few. Currently, the No. 7 Tigers are sitting atop the SEC West Standings and are looking to capture the SEC with a big sweep over our Bulldogs. Last year, Rachele Fico and Erin Arevalo opened up the series in Baton Rough with a 15-inning thriller that I will never forget. Georgia ended up claiming the victory in the 15th inning when Niaja Griffin scored on a misplayed ball at first base off the bat of then-rookie, Niaja Griffin. Georgia claimed the second game, and the series, in 6-1 fashion before falling by a 1-0 margin in the series finale. Beth Torina, Rachele Fico, and the rest of this feisty LSU Tigers team enter Athens with a chip on their shoulder after dropping the series to the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge in 2012. It goes without saying that they will be looking to repay the favor by winning the series against No. 24 Georgia in Athens.

This weekend home series is special for several reasons, most notably because of Georgia bidding farewell to their three Senior players: Tess Sito, Christine Olney, and Maya Branch. At Saturday’s pre-game Senior Day Ceremony, Georgia fans will say goodbye to the three Dawg Seniors. Georgia parents, coaches, and fans, myself included, have loved having the opportunity to watch these three talented young ladies don the Red and Black uniform. Each senior athlete on this year’s team has brought something unique to the team and it has really helped guide the team to some key wins.

Georgia's three seniors--Maya Branch, Christine Olney, & Tess Sito--pose for the camera before playing against Florida.

Georgia’s three seniors–Maya Branch, Christine Olney, & Tess Sito–pose for the camera before playing against Florida. (Courtesy UGA’s Brother Photography)

You cannot say enough about the persistence of Maya Branch, who after leaving the team a couple of years ago, decided to return and finish her career as a Georgia Bulldog. Maya has great speed on the bases and has played a great right field when called upon to do so. Although it seems as if Tess Sito just arrived in Athens yesterday, Bulldog fans will watch Tess Sito play her last game in Jack Turner Stadium on Sunday against LSU. In 2012, Sito was an integral part of Georgia’s success in the circle and at the plate. In 2013, she has played a stud second base and has been tremendous at the plate as well. I am excited to follow Tess Sito as she ventures into the NPF Pro League next year to play with former Bulldogs Brianna Hesson and Erin Arevalo on the Akron Racers. Christine Olney, the only 4-year Georgia Bulldog player on this year’s team, has been such a fun, high-energy player to watch over the past four seasons. She has played well at whatever position she has been placed at–second base, left field, first base, and right field to name a few. Not only has she played great defense and been a team leader in 2013, but her bat has came alive as she had had a career year at the plate. She has not only continued to bat for average, but she has been extremely clutch and has driven in game-tying and game-winning runs on several occasions. It goes without saying that these players will be missed in Athens, but they are all destined to do great things in the future! ConGRADulations Tess, Maya, and Christine!!!

This weekend will also be an important one because Sunday marks the annual Pink Game for the Georgia Softball team. Georgia will wear a set of hot pink Jerseys in the Sunday contest against LSU as part of their annual Strike Out Cancer weekend. After Game 3 is complete, the team will host a Silent Jersey Auction that will benefit breast cancer research. The first 300 fans to Game 3 will receive free pink and black UGA arm sleeves, although all fans will receive free pink UGA shakers. At Sunday’s contest, UGA Softball Pink Tees will be available with a minimum donation of five dollars. Of course, all contributions will go to benefit breast cancer research. This is such a great event and there is something so fun about watching these tough girls play in the bubblegum-pink uniforms! Go Pink Dawgs! 😀

Although the primary success that LSU has been experiencing in 2013 has been centered around stellar pitching from Rachele Fico, the Bayou Bengals have also flexed their muscles at the plate this season. The Tigers are led at the plate by the slapper duo of Jacee Blades and A.J. Andrews. Blades (.366, 21 RBI) and Andrews (.354, 29 RBI) have found ways to get on base all season long and are an absolute nightmare on opposing defenses because of their above average speed out of the box. LSU has gotten their supply of power at the plate from their breakout rookie shortstop, Bianka Bell. If the last name sounds familiar, that is because it should. Bianka’s older sister, Brittany Bell, is a senior slugger for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Bianka Bell is currently batting a .340 clip with 11 home runs and 45 runs driven in. Without a doubt, this young athlete is going to be a phenomenal player to watch over the next four seasons for the Tigers. Although offense has been somewhat anemic in past seasons for LSU, Beth Torina seems to have placed an equal focus on offense and defense for this club. The bats have improved and when they are on, they are tough to beat with Rachele Fico in the circle.

LSU’s Bianka Bell makes contact with the ball in a 2013 contest at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge. (Courtesy LSUsports.net)

As mentioned previously, Rachele Fico has been at the core of LSU’s success in 2013. In 2012, Fico was able to combine with Brittany Mack to get the Bayou Bengals back to the Oklahoma City for the first time in a very long time. In 2013, Rachele Fico has exceeded expectations and shown that she has been able to be the workhorse for the up and coming LSU Tigers. On the season, Fico has compiled a 24-9 record to go along with a 1.98 ERA, all while striking out 212 batters in 201.1 innings pitched. Fico was good as a freshman, but has steadily improved each and every season. Slowly but surely, Fico has developed into of the premiere pitchers in the country and will be an excellent test for the Bulldog offense right before the post season begins. What makes Rachele Fico so good is that she possesses near pinpoint ball location skills. She paints the corners in all parts of the zone very well, although when she does not get an umpire behind the plate that calls the corners, she can tend to issue a lot of free passes. The key to hitting the ball hard against Fico is as simple as picking out the closest pitch she throws to the strike zone and putting a good swing on it. Fico, like many other good pitchers, relies on batters to chase her up-and-out pitches, in turn striking out many batters on pitches that are never going to be called strikes. As the Bulldogs learned against Hannah Rogers in Gainesville this past weekend, you have to be patient at the plate and make the pitcher throw pitches near the plate in order to get solid hits and base runners.

Although Fico has been the predominant workhorse in the circle for the Tigers, Beth Torina has also turned to JUCO transfer, Ashley Czechner, and Meghan Patterson for some contests. In terms of likelihood for this weekend, I say that we will see Fico in Games 1 and 3, and we will get a full game of Czechner on Saturday. Patterson has been primarily used against some of the lighter parts of LSU’s schedule and is carrying a 6-2 record to go along with a 1.62 earned run average. Czechner has pitched the second highest amount of innings in 2013 for the Tigers and has truly excelled in SEC league play. Czechner has compiled a spotless 10-0 record to go with a 2.37 ERA. Not particularly a pitcher that relies on the strikeout, Czechner has only fanned 59 batters in 79.2 innings pitched. Czechner brings a completely different approach than does Rachele Fico. Czechner throws a good bit slower, relies predominantly on off-speed and spin pitches, but has been effective all year at inducing weak pop ups and lazy fly balls. It is very possible that we could get some hard hits against Rachele Fico, but be completely  baffled by Czechner if we do not study some film on her. In some ways, Czechner is similar to Ainsley from Texas A&M, although Czechner spins and locates the ball with much greater precision.

This year’s edition of Georgia Softball has been a roller coaster ride to remember for sure! There have been times when I felt like I wanted to pull all of my hair out, although there have been times when I find myself screaming and cheering at the top of my lungs in Athens and elsewhere as the Dawgs have hit their share of bombs, beaten some quality opponents, and made some memories to last a lifetime! The year started off with high expectations, and although things were not always smooth sailing, this year’s team has gotten better each and every time they have taken the field. Now, as the curtain closes on the 2013 Regular Season, Georgia seems to be peaking at the right time on the back of some stellar pitching and timely hitting. Although Games 2 and 3 against Florida could have went better, I think it says a lot that we played three close games after having such a hard time earlier in the year against some unranked foes. This is the most a single Georgia team has improved in a single season in as long as I can remember, and to think that this is only a glimpse of the bright future of Georgia Softball.

Rachele Fico delivers a pitch in a 2013 SEC contest. (Courtesy LSU Athletics)

I am proud to be a Georgia fan and do not think I could find a more exciting group of young student athletes. Momentum is building for the Bulldogs as the SEC Tournament and post season nears, and while the girls are still going to face their fair share of tough obstacles before the season is over, the Georgia nation is committed and believes in this team! If we can take the series from LSU here in Athens, then I think the possibilities are endless for Georgia as the post season begins. It will all depend on who we draw, but with the rigorous SEC schedule that Georgia played in the regular season, there is no way that the girls are not prepared for any team that crosses their path for the remainder of the season.

Although people say first impressions are everything, I have never been a big fan of that statement. Georgia has shown that they are constantly getting better and battling against some quality opponents for a full seven innings. It is not about how you start, but rather, it is all about how you finish. The goal of this season is to play harder than ever before and to win the last game of the season. Getting hot at the right time can be integral to this Georgia program returning to Super Regionals, and, if everything falls into place, Oklahoma City.  Finish the drill, Bulldogs!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#BeatLSU          #CommitToTheG          #RoadToWCWS

 

Georgia Edged by Georgia State, Takes One of Three from No.2 Florida

Apparently when you reach a certain limit of data using the WordPress blog site, you have to pay to upgrade your blog storage and capacity. I have been wanting to blog over the past few days, especially after the convincing win over Florida in Game 1 of the series, but tonight I just now got around to paying the $100.00 fee to upgrade the blog capacity. I apologize for you Dawg fans who have been waiting on a new article to surface. Nevertheless, here we go!

In last week’s Wednesday showdown with Georgia State, the Panthers from Atlanta would end up edging a very low-energy looking Georgia squad in 10-7 fashion. When the contest began, rain was falling very steadily and was giving the GSU defense/pitching a lot of issues. Georgia went on top first thanks to a two out solo home run off the bat off Katie Browne. The two teams would trade blows back and forth until the final frame when Georgia State pulled ahead by two runs. With two outs and runners on first and second, Geri Ann Glasco stepped into the circle with the weight of the world hanging on her shoulders. Without hesitation, Geri Ann promptly doubled to the gap in left center field and drove in the the two runners on base to tie the game. Unfortunately for Georgia, Georgia State would rally in the top of the 8th inning to score three runs, two which came from an Alford two-run bomb. Georgia went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 8th and fell to their first in-state foe of the year. This was the first time since the year 2000 that Georgia fell to the Panthers of Georgia State.

The girls did not have much time to hang their heads down low, as they travelled to Gainesville for a three-game series with (2/3)Florida. Despite losing to Georgia State, I got over it fairly quickly because of the uncharacteristic way that the girls played. The rain seemed to cause us to over think some very easy plays on the infield, and it also seemed that we were throwing the ball WAY too fat to some of the GSU hitters. Hats off to the Georgia State Panthers on a very well played game in Athens!

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In Florida, I was a tad bit worried about how the girls were going to come out and respond after dropping the final Wednesday game of the year to Georgia State. I found myself constantly reassuring myself that we could win the series with Florida, or take a game at the very least, after losing to Upstate the week before and still managing to sweep the Texas A&M Aggies. Although the Dawgs managed to win only a lone game against the Florida Gators, I still felt very good about the way our pitching kept us in all three contests. If anything, we seemed to play the opposite of the way we usually do while in the Swamp. What I mean when I say that is that we played some All-Star web gem defense in game three, pitched well in all three games, but could not find the timely offense that we so often do. Either way, I could not be more proud of this young group of Bulldogs for taking a game and playing three very competitive games with one of the best teams in the nation.

In the first game of the series, the rookie pitcher-catcher duo of Chelsea Wilkinson and Katie Browne would provide all of the in-game heroics necessary to beat the nation’s second-ranked team. In the top of the fifth inning, Katie Browne doubled in Anna Swafford from first base with two outs. The Bulldogs added on two more runs in the top of the 7th inning thanks to another Katie Browne double and an infield slap single off the bat of Samantha LaZear. The Gators threatened in the bottom of the final frame, tacking on two runs after drawing a bases-loaded walk and after a Lauren Haeger SAC fly to left field. With two outs, Chelsea Wilkinson got Kelsey Horton to ground out to third base to seal the contest. Wilkinson threw a gem, surrendering only two earned runs, all while striking out a career-high 14 Florida batters. Chelsea truly showed how good she is going to be for the Bulldogs over the next few years, and to think this is all only the beginning of what she is going to be capable of.

Georgia lost Game 2 and Game 3 by 5-2 and 5-0 scores, respectively. Tess Sito got Georgia on the board first in Game 2 by hitting a 2-run double down the left field line, but this is all the offense the Bulldogs would get for the rest of the series as Lauren Haeger and Hannah Rogers were brilliant for the rest of the weekend. Lauren Haeger proved to be the Achilles heal for the Dawgs, as she hit two home runs combined in the last two contests, one a game-winning home run off Glasco in Game 2, and a solo shot off of Montemayor in Game 3 that helped pad the lead in the final outing. Despite losing the final two outings, I was very pleased with the way Geri Ann pitched up until the fourth inning in the second game, and I was equally as pleased with how Chelsea pitched in the final contest. If we would have got off to a better start on defense in the third contest, I think our momentum would have carried us to score at least 1-2 runs rather than being shut out.

Despite starting strong, the Bulldogs would lose the series 2-1. The defense made some spectacular plays in the series finale, especially the diving catch by Niaja Griffin in CF. Tess Sito made some beautiful over-the-shoulder catches in Game 3 as well, and Paige Wilson made a plethora of great stops and throws as well. I bet our defense saved 5-6 hits in the series finale, essentially preventing any notion of a run-rule victory for the Gators in Game 3.

Morgan Montemayor pitches in one of her two appearances against Florida in Gainesville. (Courtesy UGA’s Brother Photography)

We were in no way, shape, or form predicted to win even a single game against the Gators, and yet we managed to win the first game of the series and also pitch well and play three close contests. This all reminds me of 2009 when Georgia did not play their best in SEC play, in turn getting swept by Florida and losing the series with Alabama, but all while still managing to claw their way into the World Series. This year is no different, the talent is there, and the pitching is certainly emerging! Chelsea Wilkinson reminds me of a hybrid version of Erin Arevalo mixed with Brittany Mack from LSU. She is mixing up speeds, locations, and spins right now and finding a lot of success against a wide variety of SEC opponents. She seems to be reaching her Ace potential at an integral part of the season–leaving no doubt in my mind that she will be one of the key players in Georgia making a deep run in the post season.

I am very excited for this weekend’s series against LSU, especially for the Pink Jersey game on Sunday. It will be a sad weekend as the Bulldogs bid farewell to outgoing seniors Maya Branch, Tess Sito, and Christine Olney, but one cannot say enough for how happy and proud Georgia fans are of these three young ladies! Go Tess! Go Maya! Go Christine! I want to see these Seniors kick some butt in their last three games at home in the confines of Jack Turner Stadium.

As always, Go Dawgs!

#RoadToWCWS          #WeBelieve          #CommitToTheG

23rd-Ranked Bulldogs Host Georgia State in Midweek Showdown

The 23rd-ranked University of Georgia Softball team welcomes the Georgia State Panthers to Jack Turner Stadium for the final midweek contest of the year. Georgia leads the all-time series over the Panthers by a decisive 10-2 margin and has not lost to Georgia State since 2000. In last year’s meeting between the two in-state foes, Georgia claimed a 7-0 victory. In the meeting before that, the two teams faced off in the 2011 Athens NCAA Regional where Georgia claimed an 8-0 run-rule victory over the Panthers. Georgia State is a program on the rise and has had much success in 2013 under Head Coach Roger Kincaid. I am looking forward to the game tomorrow, as it should be a good one!

Georgia State enters Athens with a 32-16 record, including an impressive 10-5 CAA conference record. The Panthers are coming off of a three-game sweep of the Drexel Dragons, and have now won six games in a row dating back to a 1-0 victory over UNC Wilmington. Georgia State made a visit to Athens back during Fall Ball and was defeated twice in two very good contests. At that time, I was impressed with the offense of the Panthers, although they have a steady array of pitchers also. It is worth mentioning that Georgia State has recorded a 1-2 record against SEC teams in 2013. The Panthers lost to Mississippi State 9-1 in their season-opening tournament before defeating Auburn 4-1 and losing to Alabama 9-1. This team pulled off a major upset over Alabama last year just before they went on to win the National Championship, so it goes without saying that the Panthers are a very capable program.

On offense, Georgia State is led by Callie Alford. Alford is leading the team in average with a .363 clip and has driven in 41 runs on the season to go along with 9 home runs. After being injured for most of the season, Senior star Paige Nowacki has returned to the Panther line-up and is batting a .211 clip with 12 home runs. Despite her comparatively low batting average, Paige Nowacki is a difference maker for this program and has been for four years. She is great in the field and is even better at the plate. Needless to say, we cannot underestimate this player based on her uncharacteristic numbers in 2013.

Despite getting off to a relatively sluggish start, the Georgia State pitching staff has really picked up the slack as of late. In the circle, the Panthers are led by Kaitlyn Medlam who has amassed a 17-6 record in 2013 to go along with a 2.29 ERA, 159 innings pitched, and 97 strikeouts. Behind her, Katie Worley has earned a 12-9 record, 3.27 ERA, and has fanned 92 batters in 130.2 innings thrown.

Georgia State’s Kaitlyn Medlam delivers a pitch in a 2013 contest (Courtesy Georgia State Athletics)

Any time two in-state foes come together, crazy things can happen. Georgia State has played some close games in the past with our Bulldogs, and I would expect them to come out fighting hard tomorrow to pull off the upset. I have no idea who the coaches will turn to in the circle, although with Montemayor’s hot weekend, it couldn’t hurt to turn to her. If we are lucky, we may get to use multiple pitchers tomorrow in order to get some innings in before the big Florida series.

Georgia is back in the Top 25 after several weeks of being unranked. Georgia currently sits at #23 in the USA Softball Top 25 after a three-game sweep of the then-#13 Texas A&M Aggies. I think being back in the poll is often overrated, but in this case should give some of the younger Dawgs some much-needed confidence and swagger. The girls are playing very confidently right now and I really hope they can keep it up against some very good programs to close the regular season on a good note!

Don’t forget fans, tomorrow’s game against Georgia State is $1 Hot Dog Night at Jack Turner Stadium! Come out and have a great time with us!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#WeRunThisState          #CommitToTheG         #RoadToWCWS

Kaylee “Moose” Puailoa Named SEC Freshman of the Week

This one has been a long time coming as Kaylee “Moose” Puailoa earned her first ever SEC award, being named the SEC Freshman of the Week after her dominating performance at the plate against Upstate and 13th-ranked Texas A&M. Kaylee has such a beautiful swing and is making a ton of in-game adjustments as of late that are allowing her to hit the change-up and hit for more power.  This may be the first SEC award for Kaylee, but I would expect her to garner her fair share of accolades before her years as a Bulldog are over. Go Kaylee!

On the week, Kaylee went 5-11 (.455 average) at the plate and registered a base hit in each of Georgia’s four games. Moose began the week by stroking her 10th double of the 2013 campaign in the outing against USC-Upstate, and she continued her hot streak by tallying a hit in each of the games against Texas A&M, including a towering home run in Saturday’s game that tied the game at 5-5. In that contest, Kaylee reached base in all four plate appearances. Although this is the first SEC weekly award for Kaylee Puailoa, it is the fifth time this season that Georgia has had a rookie named Freshman of the Week. Geri Ann Glasco has earned the award three times, while Tina and Kaylee have now each garnered it once.

You may hear cheers coming from the Georgia dugout and from people in the stands, myself included, that resembles a chorus of booing. Do not be fooled by this, as you are really hearing the routine cheer for Kaylee Puailoa. When the powerful lefty hitter steps into the box, chants of “Mooooooose” fill Jack Turner Stadium. If you look even closer, you can find the girls in the dugout holding their hands above their heads to resemble moose antlers.

When I asked Kaylee about where the nickname came from, she said that it kind of happened out of nowhere.

“On the Lakewood ladies team for coach Jorge Aurajo, we would have long practices and being the young ladies we were, our attention span was limited. I was at first base with Breana West, who is now playing for Cal Poly, and we always had our little fun. One day we decided to make nicknames and she came up with Moose! She kept calling me Moose and sooner or later so was everyone else, along with the coaches.”

Despite Kaylee’s efforts to return the favor by giving her teammate an animal nickname, she found no success. It seemed that she was destined to go by “Moose” and it has stuck ever since.

“Everyone always asks me why Moose? It sounds like a big ugly animal, but for some reason I’ve always responded to it,” says the rookie slugger.

With the power numbers and clutch hitting that this young lady has been putting up, I think her nickname may be pretty dang accurate. She is strong, maybe as strong as the proverbial Moose that her teammates have compared her to…or maybe stronger! Kaylee is a great athlete and an even greater kid! I cannot wait to see how well she does in a Georgia uniform in 2013 and for years to come!

Kaylee Puailoa tallies a hit in a 2013 game at Jack Turner Stadium (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)