No. 21 Georgia Heads to Tempe, Arizona for NCAA Regionals

Our 21st-ranked Georgia Bulldogs have their work cut out for them as they head to the 2013 NCAA Tempe Regional in Tempe, Arizona. The NCAA Regional is the first step to the 2013 Women’s College World Series, as teams must win their respective Regionals, followed by winning a best 2 of 3 format in the Super Regional Round before making it to the big dance in Oklahoma City. Georgia is certainly no stranger to the Regionals, and in fact have made it to the Regional round in the past 12 seasons consecutively. Georgia is also very familiar with the Super Regionals, having made it there in the past 6 consecutive years. This year’s Regional Round sends Georgia across the country, approximately 1,900 miles, to Tempe, Arizona where the round will be hosted by the 5th-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils. Our Bulldogs will not be the only visitors to Tempe this weekend, as San Diego State and San Jose State are both also participating and vying for a spot into the Super Regionals.

Georgia is 1-2 overall against the teams featured in the Tempe Regional, including an 0-2 mark all time against the Sun Devils, and a 1-0 tally over the San Diego State Aztecs. Georgia has never faced off against the Spartans of San Jose State, although it is a possibility that the two teams may get the chance to play for the first time ever in Tempe this weekend. It is noteworthy that the Dawgs are 44-22 in program history while playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Georgia will face the first obstacle standing in their way of an NCAA Super Regional in the form of the San Diego State Aztecs. The Bulldogs and the Aztecs will square off on Friday at 3:30 ET on ESPNU before the host Sun Devils will play San Jose State (also on ESPNU). With a win, Georgia will face the winner of the Sun Devils and the Spartans, but with a loss the Bulldogs will play the loser of the aforementioned teams. In order to win the Regional Round, Georgia will either have to win three consecutive contests or battle their way through the lower bracket and defeat the team with the undefeated record twice.

A huge good luck is in order for the Dawgs, but it goes without saying that they are going to do us proud and fight down to their very last out! The girls have been playing extremely good ball as of late and I believe in this team’s ability to make it back to Oklahoma City for the first time in three years! The Bulldog nation will be watching, as the Tempe Regional is one of the select few Regional Rounds to be broadcast live on national television via the ESPNU and WatchEspn networks. Gooooo Dawgs, Sic’ Em!

Seniors Tess Sito and Christine Olney are looking to go out in style in their final NCAA Tournament.

Seniors Tess Sito and Christine Olney are looking to go out in style in their final NCAA Tournament. (Courtesy Twitter, shot by Evan Stichler)

If the Bulldogs can escape victoriously out of Tempe, which will not be an easy feat, I really like our chances in a Super Regional. If our Dawgs were to hypothetically win their Regional, they would face the winner of the Lexington Regional. The Lexington Regional features the host Kentucky Wildcats, the Irish of Notre Dame, as well as the Hokies of Virginia Tech and the Thundering Herd of Marshall. I would personally rather face any of those four teams over the Arizona State Sun Devils! What makes our Regional so much more difficult than the other Regionals is that the average RPI of teams in Tempe average out to be the highest RPI overall when compared to the four-team combos in other Regionals.

The host-team and national #5-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils enter the Tempe Regional with an impressive 45-10 record, with a minimal three losses coming at home. What makes the Sun Devils so dangerous is their ability to score lots of runs via their speed and power, all while possessing two dynamic and outstanding pitchers in the circle. You rarely find a team that can hit the ball as well and as hard as Arizona State does, but it is even more rare to find a team that has two pitchers like Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue. Combine the deadly offensive numbers with their stellar pitching and you have one tough group in the form of the Sun Devils. While they have shown that they waiver at times, more particularly with some recent series losses to struggling Arizona and Pac-12 bottom feeders, Utah, the Sun Devils are a team that can regroup and reload from one outing to the next. It goes without saying that they will be a tough test, but I think our Dawgs have enough diversity in the circle and certainly enough offense to really do some damage while in Tempe.

In the circle, Arizona State is led by an excellent duo of junior hurlers in the form of Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue. Not only is Dallas Escobedo a formidable opponent in the circle, but she has shown just how good she can be when she won the National Championship as a rookie in 2011 in the WCWS Finals against the Florida Gators. Dallas Escobedo enters post season play sporting a modest 2.31 ERA to go along with a fantastic 25-4 record. Dallas is the epitome of a pitcher that relies on the strikeout as she has fanned a whopping 289 batters in only 209 innings thrown. Although her numbers are slightly elevated this season, do not let them fool you because Escobedo has the experience and is the real deal. Escobedo is a phenomenal athlete, although when teams have been able to find a chink in her armor, she has often fell apart mid-game or been tagged for a plethora of runs. Escobedo relies predominantly on the rise ball and she has the ability to throw both a low rise ball and a rise ball out of the zone. What makes Dallas so good is her ability to make opposing batters guess as to whether she is coming with a low rise or high rise, although when teams have laid off of the high rise and waited on her to come into the zone, they have been very successful. It helps that Arizona State has the option to go to their solid co-Ace behind Escobedo in the form of Mackenzie Popescue. Popescue enters the Regional Round with a 19-6 record, a 2.03 earned run average, all while striking out 100 batters in 134.1 innings pitched. Popescue brings a totally different look from Escobedo in that she throws much slower, has a great off-speed and good precision. I feel confident about our plate discipline against Escobedo and I really do not think that Popescue would pose much of a challenge if we indeed get the opportunity to face her.

Arizona State’s Dallas Escobedo delivers a pitch in a 2013 contest. (Courtesy ESPN.com)

Where Arizona State wreaks the most havoc, or at least in 2013, is at the plate. The Sun Devils are only one home run behind the Georgia Bulldogs with 89 bombs on the season. Not only can these girls from Tempe strike with power, but they also all hit for average. While the Sun Devils possess a lot of power at the plate, they also have an array of lefty slappers that set the table for the big hits. If Georgia can limit the power as well as the free passes, I think we will have a lot of success against the Sun Devils. Arizona State is led at the plate by Amber Freeman (.385, 16 HR, 58 RBI) and Bethany Kemp (.374, 9 HR, 23 RBI). It would be naive to think that these are the only two players who supply power and runs driven in for the Sun Devils as Sam Parlich (.360, 10 HR, 41 RBI) and Cheyenne Coyle (.364, 19 HR, 60 RBI) both are excellent at the dish also. Also worth noting, lefty slapper Bailey Wigness (.365) is third on the team in average and is a constant table setter for the Sun Devils. Clint Meyer’s Sun Devils are a formidable offense and one of the best in the country without a doubt. If Georgia can mix speeds and movement enough in the circle in order to keep ASU guessing, I think we can outscore them in some very close games.

ASU middle infielder and Florida-transfer, Cheyenne Coyle, fields a ball in a home game at Farrington Stadium.

ASU middle infielder and Florida-transfer, Cheyenne Coyle, fields a ball in a home game at Farrington Stadium. (Courtesy Arizona State Athletics)

Although the Sun Devils of Arizona State are certainly the favorite and top-seeded team in the Regional, it would be unwise to overlook our first match-up with a very dynamic San Diego State team. San Diego State comes into Tempe with a similar record to the Bulldogs at 35-18. The Aztecs are a very well-balanced team with respect to pitching, defense, and offensive performance. Although their power numbers and team average are much lower than the Dawgs, this San Diego State team has gotten some clutch power hitting from Lorena Bauer and Patrice Jackson. Lorena Bauer (.421, 13 HR, 49 RBI) and Patrice Jackson (.368, 14 HR, 41 RBI) are the team’s leading hitters for average, home runs, and RBIs. Georgia pitching has often fell susceptible to the long ball, and it will be imperative to keep these two Aztec hitters in the park in order to pull out a victory. Not to be overlooked, the Aztecs have found much of their success in 2013 on the back of their two main pitchers, rookie Danielle O’Toole and senior Rebecca Arbino. O’Toole enters the Regional with a 14-6 record to accompany her 1.71 ERA, all while having fanned 111 batters in 143 innings pitched. With more overall experience and innings in the circle, Arbino heads the pitching staff with a 20-12 record, 1.96 earned run average, and all while striking out 196 batters in 207.1 innings pitched.

Assuming we put bat to ball, get some good pitching performances in the circle, and play well on defense, we should be able to power our way through this very talented and experienced Aztecs squad. The last thing we want to do is come out flat and play bad defense, in turn giving away free passes and free runs that will only hamper our overall performance. Friday cannot get here soon enough as I really think this will be a great match-up to open up the Tempe Regional.

Finally, rounding out the four teams in the Tempe Regional are the WAC Champions, the San Jose State Spartans. The Spartans are headed by Head Coach Peter Turner, who it is worth mentioning is also the Head Coach of the USA Men’s National Fastpitch Team. San Jose State has played some very talented teams this year and have given some big time schools some very stiff competition. The Spartans of SJSU have played the likes of Hawaii, UCLA, California, Oregon, and Oregon State just to name a few. Playing this caliber of competition will surely have SJSU prepared for any team they may meet in the postseason, Arizona State included. Entering the Tempe Regional with an impressive 40-15 overall record, the Spartans are looking to get thing going with an upset as they take on the Sun Devils. The Spartans are led at the plate by Michelle Cox (.373, 1 HR, 22 RBI), Markesha Collins (.356, 9 HR, 36 RBI), and Jessie Hufstetler (.321, 3 HR, 27 RBI). Although they are an overall decent hitting squad, the SJSU Spartans have garnered much of their success in 2013 thanks to some absolutely brilliant pitching performances by Amanda Pridmore. Pridmore has tallied a 29-9 record, 1.51 ERA, and has also picked up a ton of strikeouts as she has fanned 250 batters in 249.2 innings. When San Jose State is the #4 seed in your Regional, you know the competition is stiff and that truly anyone could advance to the Super Regionals. With Pridmore in the circle and the Spartan offense clicking, it would not surprise me to see San Jose State succeed in the post season.

San Jose State’s pitching staff is led by Amanda Pridmore (pictured above). (Courtesy San Jose State Athletics)

While the future of Georgia Softball’s 2013 season hangs in the balance, only one thing can be for sure: we are in for a treat as we will get to see and play against some terrific competition in Tempe this weekend. Despite what does or does not happen in Tempe, words cannot describe how much fun I have had following and chronicling this Georgia squad so far this season. From the early season struggles, to slowly finding their identity over the ensuing months, to tallying a winning record against ranked opponents in the home stretch of the season, it has been an enthralling season to be a part of and watch. I think Georgia’s dividends have been paid as the team has put their complete trust in what Lu, Gerry, and Tara have been teaching them. This year’s group has truly believed in the process and committed to the G with an amazing effort and sense of dedication. It just goes to show how softball, like in many sports, is not always about how you start the season, but instead how you finish. When this team plays their “A” game, there is not a team in the nation that they cannot succeed against. I wish that my work and lesson schedule permitted me to make the almost-2000 mile cross-crountry trip to Tempe, but alas I will be watching from here in Athens. If we make it to Super Regionals, bet your butts that I will be there screaming, cheering, and chanting for the Bulldogs in Lexington or wherever it may be. Never give up Dawgs and represent Bulldog Nation with a complete effort in every inning of every contest. We believe! I believe!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#RoadToWCWS          #DominateTempe          #CommitToTheG

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Bulldogs Dominate LSU, Fall Short to Gators in SEC Semifinals

Although the 2013 SEC Tournament did not end up going exactly how the 23rd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs would have liked, the girls from Athens showed a heck of a lot of fight en route to a tie for third place overall out of ten very talented programs. Chelsea Wilkinson pitched an absolute gem in the Quarterfinals against 9th-ranked LSU, blanking the Tigers in her complete-game effort. After knocking LSU out of the tournament via a 7-0 score, Georgia fell to the eventual champions and 3rd-ranked Florida Gators by a 9-5 final margin. Trailing 9-0 heading into the 5th inning of play, it looked as if the Bulldogs were ready to pack their bags and head home in their first mercy rule loss of the year, but the Bulldogs refused to roll over. Georgia mounted an aggressive comeback in the final three innings of the contest with Florida and managed to pull within four runs. But alas, the rally fell just short and the Bulldogs fell to the Gators for the third time in 2013.

Congratulations to Chelsea Wilkinson and Paige Wilson for garnering All SEC Tournament honors and congratulations to the rest of the team on some well-played ball while in Lexington. It brings me a lot of excitement to see that we were able to tack on five runs off of Hannah Rogers in the second half of the SEC Semifinals. We ended the game by playing aggressive softball at the dish and in the field, and this is what leads me to believe that we will carry tons of positive momentum into the NCAA Regional Round that begins on either Thursday or Friday of this week.

Chelsea Wilkinson earned SEC All-Tournament Honors to go along with her All-Freshman Honors from earlier in the week.

Chelsea Wilkinson earned SEC All-Tournament Honors to go along with her All-Freshman Honors from earlier in the week. (Courtesy The Red & Black)

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In Thursday’s match-up with the Bayou Bengals, Georgia jumped on the board in the top of the third inning thanks to a Katie Browne solo home run off the first pitch she saw from Rachele Fico. The Bulldogs would continue to put runs on the scoreboard in the top of the 5th inning thanks to a two-run single through the left side off the bat of Kaylee Puailoa. With the score situated at 3-0, Tess Sito drew a lead-off walk, was sacrificed to second on a perfect bunt from Christine Olney, and eventually came around to score after Niaja Griffin singled and forced an LSU fielding error to make the score 4-0. Georgia continued to pad their lead in the final frame of play by plating three final runs. With the bases loaded, Tina Iosefa was hit by a pitch and another run scored afterwards on a a fielder’s choice off the bat of Tess Sito. Georgia scored their final run of the contest by executing a perfect double steal by Tess Sito and Kaylee “Moose” Puailoa.

Chelsea did not throw a good game, but instead threw an absolutely genius game against the LSU Tigers. In the complete game effort, Wilkinson scattered just five hits and allowed no runs to cross the plate. With the victory, Chelsea Wilkinson picked up her fourth win over a Top 25 program (Texas A&M, Florida, LSU twice…) in the past month! Go Chelsea!

In the Saturday Semifinal match-up against the 3rd-ranked Florida Gators, Geri Ann Glasco got the start in the circle and appeared to be in an early groove before getting tagged for four earned runs off of two Gator home runs. After striking out Kelsey Stewart and popping up Kirsti Merritt, Glasco followed by surrendering two, two-run blasts off the bats of Lauren Haeger and Taylor Schwartz. Morgan Montemayor replaced Glasco in the circle and would end up surrendering five runs, only two of which were earned, in the final 5.1 innings of work. After the Gators padded their lead on the back of another Schwartz home run and RBI hits from Stewart and Tofft, things were not looking too good for our Bulldogs. With the score standing at 9-0 entering the top of the 5th inning of play, it appeared that Georgia was in line to suffer their first mercy rule loss of the season. But alas, the Bulldogs showed the fight that they are well known for and managed to tag Hannah Rogers for five runs late in the contest.

With the bases loaded in the fifth inning, Niaja Griffin grounded out to the left side for an RBI and made the score 9-1 in favor of the Gators. Paige Wilson then followed with a hot-shot double down the right field line to plate a pair of Georgia runs to bring the score to a 9-3 margin. After a quiet sixth inning, Georgia mounted yet another rally in the top of the 7th and final frame of play. After back-to-back singles off the bats of Browne and LaZear got the inning started, Paige Wilson picked up her third and fourth RBIs of the game on a single through the right side to bring the score to a managebale 9-5 tally. The late Bulldog rally fell just short as the final two outs of the contest were recorded and the Gators moved on to face Missouri in the finals.

Paige Wilson finished the SEC Tournament with a .500 average and 4 RBIs en route to All-Tournament Honors.

Paige Wilson finished the SEC Tournament with a .500 average and 4 RBIs en route to All-Tournament Honors. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

Florida defeated Missouri in the nightcap by a 10-4 final score, which made me feel much better about our performance. It felt good to know that we gave up less runs and also scored more runs against Florida than did the second place Missouri Tigers. With the win against Missouri, the 3rd-ranked Florida Gators won both the Regular Season SEC Title and the SEC Tournament Title. Congratulations to the Gators and a very stellar regular season and here’s hoping that we may get another shot at them in the post season! Stinkin’ Gators! 😉

Georgia will find out their post season fate on Sunday night at 10pm when the NCAA D1 Softball Selection Show will be aired live on ESPNU. Be sure not to miss it! This postseason is sure to be one of the better ones in the last 5-6 years because with the exception of Oklahoma, the field is wide open for anyone to take! I would like to think that with the right draw, our Georgia Bulldogs have a great chance of making it far and doing us fans even more proud than they already have!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#RoadToWCWS          #CommitToTheG          #BombSquadPuppies

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

Bulldogs Sweep 13th-Ranked Texas A&M

(VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS HERE)
Georgia Softball earned their second Southeastern Conference series in as many weekends, this time thanks to a three-game sweep of the 13th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies. After winning 3-1 on Friday and 12-7 on Saturday, Georgia finished up the weekend strong with a hard-fought 6-3 victory over the Aggies. Morgan Montemayor picked up the win in the circle on Saturday and Sunday, improving her record to 11-6 on the 2013 campaign. On Sunday, MoMo pitched five innings, gave up one earned run, struck out two, and walked just one batter. This sport is all about timely leadership and getting “hot” at the right time of the season…if you ask me, I think the girls are all stepping up big time, especially the pitching staff! Today’s game, once again, gave us an opportunity to see how good we can really be when we play error-free ball and have smart base-running to go along with some STELLAR pitching!

Thoughts go out to Aggie senior pitcher, Mel Dumezich, on a speedy recovery if she is indeed in pain or injured. One must assume that she is hurt after not seeing her in the line-up whatsoever in the final two games. The Aggies are a superb team with her in the circle, but this weekend showed how vulnerable they can be when they do not score runs behind their second and third string pitchers. I wish all the best of luck to A&M for the remainder of the season!

On another note, I really hope this win can get us back into one or both of the Top 25 Polls. I think that would really boost the girls’ confidence even more and get them pumped up for the big series with Florida next weekend! Without a doubt, the RPI will get a big boost after beating the #12 RPI team back-to-back-to-back in convincing fashion. The motto for this year’s team should definitely focus on finishing strong, after all, it is all about how you respond and how you finish! It is an exciting time to be a Georgia Softball fan, as I think this team has endless potential and is really going to come on even stronger here in the closing two weeks of SEC play. We have to face the Gators in Gainesville before coming home to host the LSU Tigers in Athens. It is not going to be easy, but we all know that already! Hard work pays off, Dawgs! Keep it up!

Tina Iosefa hit a 2-run home run and was 3-4 at the plate on Sunday against Texas A&M

Tina Iosefa hit a 2-run home run and was 3-4 at the plate on Sunday against Texas A&M (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

In today’s outing, the weather was beautiful and the crowd was even better! Georgia got the scoring going in the opening frame of the contest thanks in part to a leadoff slap single up the middle by Niaja Griffin. Man, Aja was a tough out to come by this weekend for the Aggies…seeing nothing but good from Niaja right now! Love it! After Niaja singled and stole second base, she would eventually be knocked in off a two-out RBI single from Kaylee Puailoa! It’s the Year of the Moooooose, ladies and gentlemen! The best part of this plate appearance by Moose was that she did not have to do anything fancy to score Aja from second. With two strikes on her, Kaylee simply hit a single into right field off the end of the bat on a pretty good change-up from A&M’s Ainsley. Could we finally be sitting back on the off-speed and driving it? This is a huge improvement and has caused us grief in the past, so it goes without saying that it is awesome to see us hit a plethora of good hits this weekend off of Ainsley’s change-up.

In the top of the 2nd inning, the Aggies loaded the bases and scored two runs off a slap single up the middle off the bat of Brittany Clopton. In the bottom of the frame, all while trailing 2-1, Tess Sito laid down a beautiful bunt single and then promptly stole second base. Anna Swafford followed by drawing a walk and advanced to second after Katie Browne sacrifice bunted both runners over. A fielder’s choice slap off the bat of Sam LaZear tied the contest at 2-2, and Niaja Griffin continued her hot streak with a slap RBI single to the pitcher. Georgia would hold off scoring any more runs until the sixth inning when Tina Iosefa belted a two-run home run off the foul pole in left field. The bomb by Tina was her 14th of the season and Georgia’s nation-leading 82nd of the 2013 season. Georgia would add one last insurance run off a pinch-hit single from Christine Olney that was stroked hard into right field.

Texas A&M tried to mount a rally after a leadoff home run in the 7th inning off the bat of Amber Garza. This was Garza’s second home run of the weekend after she crushed a pitch from Chelsea Wilkinson earlier in the series. This would be all of the scoring that Texas A&M would be able to manage as Morgan Montemayor made a web gem snag off a rocket up the middle from Nicole Morgan just before popping up Meagan May for the final out of the contest. With the win, Georgia improves to 34-15 on the year and 11-7 in SEC play. With the loss, the 13th-ranked Aggies fall to 35-12 overall and 6-11 in conference play.

Samantha LaZear relays a throw back to the infield in a game against Texas A&M

Samantha LaZear relays a throw back to the infield in a game against Texas A&M (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

The defense looks much better, LaZear and Niaja are on fire, and pitching is absolutely dominating! It is worth noting that Niaja and Sam combined to go 12-23 (.523 average) this week. WOW! What a great weekend of Georgia Bulldog Softball, eh Dawg fans? Not only have our speedy lefties been absolute Hell on opposing defenses as of late, but our bats are becoming more and more clutch with each and every game. The thing that is so awesome about this year’s squad is that when one of the players are not producing in a certain game or situation, another kid steps up and makes a big play, throws a good pitch, or gets a clutch hit. There is no definitive superstar on this team, despite each and every girl putting up absolute STUD numbers this season. There is a positive energy surrounding this young club right now and I truly think the sky is the limit! The question marks that were surrounding this year’s squad were never a matter of “If” but rather a question concerning “When” they would settle in and start shaping up. I think that time is NOW and I am so excited to get to see the girls face off against two talented SEC squads in the form of the Florida Gators and LSU Tigers.

Before heading to the Swamp for a three-game series with Florida, Georgia will face Georgia State  on Wednesday at 6pm in the friendly confines of Jack Turner Stadium. Wednesday night’s contest with Georgia State is “$1 Hot Dog Night” fans so be sure to come pig out and see some great softball. 😀

As always, Go Dawgs!

#CommitToTheG          #BombSquadPuppies          #RoadToWCWS

Tess Sito slides into second base on a beautifully executed steal against Texas A&M

Tess Sito slides into second base on a beautifully executed steal against Texas A&M (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

Georgia Homers Three Times, Secures Series Over Texas A&M

(VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS HERE)

On a night where the Georgia Bulldogs found themselves facing a 5-0 deficit in the bottom of the first inning, the girls from Athens managed to rally and make an outstanding comeback against the 13th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies. Despite taking the early blow on the back of two Aggie home runs, Georgia battled back with some bombs of their own to win the game a by a final score of 12-7. Morgan Montemayor picked up the series-securing victory to improve to 10-6 on the season. It was really nice to see the Dawgs be able to generate a lot of power and momentum while being down in such a huge hole. It is reassuring to know that our solid hitting can keep us in the game at any given point, no matter what inning it is and no matter the score. With the win, Georgia improves their overall record to 33-15 on the year, while improving to 10-7 in SEC play.

Morgan Montemayor was brilliant against Texas A&M Saturday evening, striking out 8 Aggie batters. (Courtesy The Red & Black)

Chelsea Wilkinson started off the game and got things going in similar fashion to the first game of the series. Although Wilkinson struck out the first two Aggie batters, Texas A&M would respond with a string of hits, including two home runs to put them in front by a 5-0 score in the opening frame. Morgan Montemayor was brought in to pitch with two outs in the first inning and she would end up giving Georgia an absolutely wonderful performance for 6.1 innings. In the bottom of the second inning, Kaylee Puailoa singled up the middle and Tina Iosefa drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with nobody out. Then, Anna Swafford (3-4, 3 RBI) got her stellar night at the plate going with an RBI single to score Puailoa. Still trailing 4-1 and this time with the bases loaded, Christine Olney delivered a 2-run hit up the middle to bring the score to 5-3. Katie Browne singled and came around to score on a passed ball by Aggie pitcher, Lauren Ainsley. In the bottom of the third inning, Georgia managed to tie the game at 5-5 via a Kaylee Puailoa home run. A few batters later, Anna Swafford put the Dawgs on top with a single that was scorched through the left side.

The scoring pattern would continue for the Georgia Bulldogs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Niaja Griffin led off the frame by being plunked by a pitch, followed by a BEAUTIFUL drag bunt single by Paige Wilson. Geri Ann Glasco followed with an absolutely CRUSHED bomb to center field to put the Dawgs on top by a 9-5 margin. Tonight’s home run by Glasco was her 18th of the season and it helped increase her league-leading RBI total to 56 runs driven in. With two outs in the same inning, Tess Sito doubled and ended up scoring on a triple by Anna Swafford to bring the score to 10-5. The Bulldogs refused to lay down and settle for a five run lead as they added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Paige Wilson’s 12th home run of the season. Texas A&M would manage to plate a run in both the 6th and 7th innings, but would fail to rally back against the Bulldogs as Georgia took Game 2 by a 12-7 final. How about the studly web gem snag in mid-air by Tess Sito to end the game?! Atta girl, Sito!

Morgan Montemayor pitched a great game tonight, going 6.1 innings, surrendering two earned runs, and striking out 8 Texas A&M batters. This is the Morgan Montemayor that I remember back in her debut in 2010 and this is the MoMo that will help Georgia deep into the postseason in 2013. Keep up the hard work, MoMo! Chelsea got roughed up a bit early, despite striking out the first two Aggie hitters, and I think we will continue to see her get plenty of innings in SEC play. I think the Aggies sat back and let the ball get a little deeper today than they did yesterday, and they simply seemed to have figured out CW’s game plan. I think if the coaches are going to rely a lot on the backdoor curve and slow curve in Chelsea’s first outing of a series, then they need to take a different approach in the second game she pitches. Perhaps a drop ball/rise ball combo to contrast the backdoor curve/slow curve/screw combo of the first day? Just some food for thought. Either way, CW was brilliant in Game 1 and Morgan was just as good in her outing tonight. I wonder if we will get to see Geri Ann in tomorrow’s contest or if the coaches will go back to Morgan or Chelsea? I am fine with whatever decisions the coaches make, especially since we have already won the series over the 13th-ranked team in the nation! Woo-hoo! 😀

Some of the errors and base-running mistakes reared their heads in today’s outing, although the girls continued building momentum and pounded out a whopping 18 hits off of three different Texas A&M pitchers. As I stated yesterday, it appears that Dumezich is injured or being rested because she did not hit or pitch in Game 2. I really wish we would get a chance to see her throw, as it would be great preparation for Florida, LSU, and the post season. Tonight’s game helped to highlight some of our keys to success, more specifically the need to get on base in front of our big hitters. Niaja Griffin and Sam LaZear went a combined 4-7 to really set the table for some monster hits. With both of these young ladies consistently getting on base, it not only increases our momentum and scoring opportunities, but it really has the ability to put lots of pressure on opposing defenses, in turn getting in their heads! I said it last night, and I will repeat myself again tonight: SPEED KILLS!!!

Kaylee Puailoa hit her 15th home run of the season against Texas A&M on Saturday evening. (Courtesy The Red & Black)

It brings me great joy to say this: Georgia finds themselves going for the series sweep over a very good Texas A&M squad tomorrow in Athens at 1PM. Be sure to come out and support the Bulldogs because, as always, admission is FREE and there will be plenty of fun opportunities for the younger fans!

Super proud of these Dawg softball players and coaches! Way to go!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#CommitToTheG          #SicEm          #RoadToWCWS

Wilkinson Dominates as Georgia Defeats 13th-Ranked Aggies

(VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS HERE)

Georgia made no errors. They did not make any mental mistakes on the bases either. But, what the Georgia Softball team did make on Friday evening at a rainy Jack Turner Stadium was a resounding statement. On the back of a brilliant performance in the circle from Chelsea Wilkinson, Georgia never trailed and defeated the 13th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies by a final score of 3-1. Wilkinson went the distance, allowing 3 hits (2 being weak infield singles), giving up one earned run, and fanning a career-high 12 batters. With the career-high dozen strikeouts, Chelsea Wilkinson also set a new season-high for the entire pitching staff. Some of us fans here in Dawg Land have been getting a lot of good vibes from Chelsea’s outings lately, and watching her absolutely dominate one of the nation’s best offenses tonight reassured a lot of what we have been thinking: this kid is going to be the real deal, folks!

Chelsea Wilkinson in action against Texas A&M on a wet Friday evening in Athens.

Chelsea Wilkinson in action against Texas A&M on a wet Friday evening in Athens. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by John Kelly)

Georgia got on the board in the opening frame of the contest when Niaja Griffin singled and stole second base, all before reaching third base on a throw that sailed into center field from the arm of Megan May behind the plate. Paige Wilson followed with a shot that almost sailed over the wall, but instead bounced back in to play to be scored an RBI double. Geri Ann followed with a single through the left side, but would be left stranded despite the Dawgs scoring a run on yet another bad throw from Megan May. Kaylee Puailoa struck out, but the ball got away from May in the dirt and the the throw to first was errant, sailing into right field and scoring Paige from third base. Two runs would be the only scoring either team saw until the Aggies got on the board in the top of the third inning. With runners on first and second after a HBP and a walk, Megan May redeemed her errant throws with a soft RBI single up the middle. Wilkinson escaped the jam by fanning the following batter. Despite multiple scoring opportunities, Georgia waited until the sixth inning to add on an insurance run. With runners on second and third with two outs, Sam LaZear placed a perfect slap hit to the shortstop, allowing the runner from third to score and make it a 3-1 ball game. Chelsea Wilkinson (5-2) retired the final three batters of the game in order and picked up the win, going the distance while fanning an incredible 12 opposing batters.

Picking up the loss in the circle for the Aggies was their second string hurler, Lauren Ainsley (11-4). I am not sure what is going on with Mel Dumezich, but I noticed that I did not see her throwing in the bullpen at all throughout the entire night. Although she did not pitch, she was batting clean-up in the lineup, despite not reaching base a single time in the contest. I hope there is nothing wrong with Dumezich as far as her pitching is concerned because I want our Bulldogs to be able to get a glimpse of some good pitching before the trip down to Gainesville to play the Gators. Although she has not faced as much of the tough competition this year for the Aggies, Lauren Ainsley still did a pretty good job in the circle. Ainsley surrendered three runs, two earned, and struck out four batters. The Bulldogs left seven runners on base in the contest, and this was the only concerning thing I saw in the contest to be quite honest. But hey, I will take 7 runners LOB versus 11,12, 13+ any day of the week! 😀

So how about our slappers making big things happen as of late? Niaja Griffin led off the game with a hard hit single into center field and would eventually come around to score on Paige Wilson’s double off the top of the wall. In the sixth inning, hungry for some insurance runs, Sam LaZear provided just that with an RBI fielder’s choice that was perfectly executed. I am hoping that our slap hitters will keep finding ways to get on base when it matters in order to give us more and more chances to score both early and late in these games against tough SEC teams! Speed kills!!! Go Sam! Go Aja!

Rookie slapper and center fielder, Sam LaZear, batted 1-2 with an RBI for the Bulldogs on Friday evening.

Rookie slapper and center fielder, Sam LaZear, batted 1-2 with an RBI for the Bulldogs on Friday evening. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by John Kelly)

Georgia will return to the field tomorrow (Saturday) at 4pm to face off against the Aggies in Game 2 of this Southeastern Conference series. It would make sense to go back to Wilkinson in the circle, but then again you never know what will happen. It will be harder for Chelsea to dominate tomorrow with the Aggies having already seen her for a full game, but if she can mix the game plan up and attack different zones then I think she will find another heap of success! Words cannot describe how awesome CW was in the circle this evening. Not only was pitching great, but our base-running was crisp and aggressive, and our defense did not make a single error. Anna Swafford played a beastly third base tonight, while Paige Wilson and Tess Sito made some great plays in the middle infield also. If we can keep playing error-free, then we have a shot to beat anyone in the country! I am so proud of this team! It is all about getting hot at the right time and could this be the time? Let’s hope so!!!

As always, Go Dawgs!!!

#BeatTAMU          #SicEm          #CommitToTheG

Paige Wilson cheering her team on in the rain after doubling in Niaja Griffin in the first inning against Texas A&M on Friday.

Paige Wilson cheering her team on in the rain after doubling in Niaja Griffin in the first inning against Texas A&M on Friday. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by John Kelly)

Georgia Wins Series, Blanks South Carolina 2-0

In the Sunday rubber match between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks, Georgia prevailed by a final score of 2-0. Chelsea Wilkinson picked up the victory for Georgia on the back of a dominant 3-hit shutout. This was Chelsea Wilkinson’s first complete-game effort in the Southeastern Conference. No doubt, this is a day that will stay with Chelsea for many years to come. I could have sworn it was Erin Arevalo out there throwing with the way Chelsea was nailing the horizontal spin pitches on the corners of the plate. If you think about it, those two are a lot more similar than one might would originally presume. Erin Arevalo arrived on campus her freshman year and showed right away that she could move the ball well and mix up speeds, but she would not see much time until being thrown into the mix in the 2009 WCWS where she would shut down the eventual champions, the Washington Huskies. Chelsea is showing how masterful she can be in the circle, and I am so glad that she is stepping up her game at the right time. Heck, she even hit a line-drive double to the grass today in only her third at bat of the season. Go Chelsea!

Chelsea Wilkinson pitched the 3-hit shutout against South Carolina on Sunday to earn her first complete-game win in SEC play. (Courtesy The Red & Black)

South Carolina started their offense early in the final game of the series, putting runners in scoring position in both the first and second frame of the contest. Despite giving up a trio of hits through two innings, Chelsea Wilkinson managed to get out of both the first and second innings thanks to some great defense and timely strikeouts. Georgia got on the board with their lone two runs of the game in the fourth inning when Paige Wilson reached base on an error, and Geri Ann Glasco promptly followed with her fourth 2-run home run of the weekend, her SEC-leading 17th bomb on the season. If this young lady does not get Freshman of the Week honors this week, then that means someone must have really had a flat-out incredible week! Come to find out, a 2-0 lead would be all rookie hurler Chelsea Wilkinson would need. She finished the game by retiring the final 14 batters of the contest, including striking out the first two batters of the final inning before inducing a game-inning foul pop-up to Paige Wilson at third base. Wilkinson went the distance, striking out six South Carolina batters and gave up only three hits. If this is a sign of days to come, then sign me up! I really cannot say how vastly impressed I was with her performance today, especially after the way this team pounded Jackie Traina earlier in the year in their three game series with the Crimson Tide.

So, despite the weekend getting started with a sloppy loss to the Gamecocks, I truly think there are a lot of extremely positive things to take away from this series victory. It all starts with the way we looked in the circle, which if you ask me, we looked pretty good overall. Morgan was able to make it to the final inning of the game without surrendering a single earned run, and Chelsea was able to come in to slam the door in relief. Even in the first game of the weekend, I thought Geri had some bright spots. We all know that Geri will rebound and is going to continue to get better as the season progresses. It astounds me to think about how good this kid is going to be over the next 3-4 years. Wow! She definitely has to work harder at pitching than hitting, but I think that is what will eventually prime her to be one of the best out there. It is rare enough already to find a kid who can pitch in the SEC, much less a kid who can pitch in the SEC as a rookie and also lead the conference in home runs and RBI. This kid can flat-out RAKE! The last time I checked, Geri Ann is 3rd in the country in long balls, and trails only Lauren Chamberlain (21 HR, Oklahoma) and Megan Baltzell (18 HR, Longwood).

Although Chelsea gave us a great outing in the rubber match, and while Morgan and Geri had some great innings, it goes without saying that our pitching is going to have to get 1-2% better each game from here on out for us to be a force to reckoned with come May and hopefully June! I have complete faith that our staff is going to come on strong here in the final month of the SEC season, and if we can keep the base hits coming before the long ball, we will have a major chance at beating anyone out there!

Besides noticing some very positive things from our pitching in Columbia, I think the changes on defense are going to pay the biggest dividends come season’s end. The coaching staff has moved Paige Wilson to third base from short-stop, moved Tess Sito from second base to short-stop, and put Cricket Blanco on second. With this shift came the requirement of putting Anna Swafford in left field. I am beyond comfortable with this defensive realignment after the way the four girls played some STUD defense today against South Carolina. Paige has some of the quickest hands on the team, and by far has the strongest arm of all the Dawgs, so that is why I think the hot corner is where she will thrive. Sometimes, it came down to simply getting to the ball while at shortstop, and this is where Tess Sito is going to have a lot of success at the middle infield station. Tess really hustled to make some good plays, throwing across her body and also turning some key double plays to help get us out of trouble. While she only had a few attempts at second base, Cricket looked like a veteran out there yesterday and today. It wouldn’t be acceptable unless I also mention the speedy defense played by Swafford in left field these past two outings. I think defense was killing not only our opportunities to limit opposing runs, but also the morale of the girls. With a fresh configuration that appears to be working on defense, perhaps the girls are finally settling in to their niche. Keep up the groovy defense, ladies! 😀

Paige Wilson, recently shifted over to third base, played the hot corner with ease against the Gamecocks on Saturday and Sunday.

Paige Wilson, recently shifted over to third base, played the hot corner with ease against the Gamecocks on Saturday and Sunday. (Courtesy The Red & Black)

If you ask me what I perceived to be the most enjoyable moment of the weekend, I think it would be a toss-up between being informed of the way the second game ended and seeing Chelsea hit a double to the outfield. How about a quick re-cap on how those events went down:

1. Game One’s Ending: When I saw the girls running off of the field with grins on their faces in the second game of the series, I was taken aback because I initially had no idea what was going on. The announcers for South Carolina said that the runner was called out for being off the base, but they gave no clarification. When I read the recap on the South Carolina website, it said that the runner was called out on the “Look Back” rule, meaning that the runner was off the base even after the pitcher has looked at the runner to ensure that she is on the bag. Indeed, this would be the correct diagnosis of the situation that happened, although after speaking to one of the softball parents, I was informed a little more closely as to what happened. Although she had JUST been moved to third base, Paige Wilson overheard and saw signs that the baserunner on third base was trying to steal home plate and tie the game when Chelsea would turn around and walk out of the back of the circle with her back turned. This prompted Paige Wilson to jog over to the circle and inform Chelsea of what was happening and what happened on the very next pitch? VOILA! Chelsea turned her back and walked to the very back of the circle without stepping out and looked back the runner who was attempting to steal home. Thus, the runner was called out and Georgia cleverly avoided a South Carolina rally in the final inning. This is one of the best in-game stories I have heard in a while! When outs are becoming harder to come by, just go ahead and outsmart them, girls! LOL.

2. Chelsea’s Double: We have seen many offensive line-ups this year haven’t we? Well, we got the chance to see a drastically new batting order today as the coaches had Wilkinson batting in the 8-spot of the order. I watched Chelsea make her first trip to the plate over a month ago in Rock Hill, South Carolina against Delaware State. In that outing, Chelsea hit the ball hard and semi-deep to left field, but it was caught about 10-15 yards from the fence. When the announcers said that Wilkinson was batting in today’s rubber match, I surely thought this was another SID error with GameTracker or something. Nope and nope. Wilkinson got to get her hacks in at the plate today, and while she struck out in her first trip to the plate in SEC play, she made her second one count and drove a pitch hard to the gap in the outfield. Go Chelsea! Chelsea was a great hitter for average and power while in high school, and maybe she will give us some pop on occasion at the bottom of the line-up. No doubt, we will see Chelsea get a few more trips to the plate here in 2013.

Georgia welcomes the Texas A&M Aggies to Jack Turner Stadium this upcoming weekend after hosting the USC-Upstate Spartans to town for a mid-week contest that is sure to be a good one. Both the Aggies and the Spartans come in ranked in the Top 25 polls, so this will be another set of tough chances for Georgia to prove how good they really are! Confidence goes a long way. Talent goes a long way. Showing fight goes a long way. Put that trio of qualities together and you cannot lose! Here’s looking forward to continuing to find success in between the chalk lines, ladies.

As always, Go Dawgs!

#CommitToTheG