On Wednesday, the Georgia Bulldogs will play host to the team with the best record in all of the Carolinas. You may be thinking about North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, or an array of other teams, but guess again! The USC-Upstate Spartans enter Athens with an impressive 35-5 record and sit exactly one spot above our Bulldogs in the RPI at 38th in the country. This fact alone (38 RPI vs 39 RPI) is what, perhaps, makes this one of the more interesting non-conference contests this year. Not only do the Spartans have a great record, but they have the third best team batting average in the nation (.349) and have the second best fielding percentage in the nation (.982). Personally, I think this is going to be a great midweek contest and should feature some hot offense and some great pitching. It is noteworthy that Upstate was ranked in last week’s NFCA Poll, claiming the #24 ranking before being defeated twice over the weekend by the Lipscomb Bison in Atlantic Sun conference play.
Georgia leads the all-time series between the two schools with a 2-0 record. Georgia defeated the Spartans last year by a 7-3 final score and also defeated Upstate in 2011 by a 9-1 score. It is also worth mentioning that these two programs played some very competitive games back during Fall Ball that were extremely fun to watch. Georgia claimed both victories in Fall Ball and Niaja Griffin hit one of the longest home runs I have seen in quite sometime off of Jamie Ujvari. I guess the Spartans will be delighted to see Niaja slapping from the left side this time around rather than slugging away from the right. But, who knows? I would not be surprised to see Niaja get an attempt from the right side in tomorrow’s outing based on her success hitting for power against the Spartans in the Fall.
In the circle, the Spartans have a talented duo of Ace hurlers in the form of Jamie Ujvari and Hannah Alexander. Both Ujvari and Alexander are very good rise ball pitchers with great movement and good speed also. Jamie Ujvari is sporting an impressive 16-1 record to go along with a 1.58 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 101.2 innings pitched. With similar numbers, experienced Upstate pitcher Hannah Alexander has compiled a 15-2 record, a 1.71 ERA, and has fanned 106 batters in 106.2 innings thrown. Without a doubt, this is the most dynamic and feared pitching duo in the entire A-SUN conference, and perhaps one of the best staffs on the East Coast. This team has been on the rise for a few years now, and I think their pitching has been the main reason for this rise in performance. Do not get me wrong, this team is now showing off how good they can whack the ball, but in the past it has been their dominating rise ball pitchers that have carried the program.
As mentioned above, the Upstate Spartans are third in the country for team batting average with an eye-popping .349 clip. Not only does this team hit for average, but they also strike with the home run ball more often than not. With respect to average, the Spartans are led at the plate by Maddison Kieffer. Kieffer is batting a whopping .430 tally with 5 home runs and 33 runs batted in. It is extremely hard to pinpoint which players on this team are the offensive juggernauts, simply because they all have incredible averages and power numbers! The team’s leader in RBIs, Shellie Robinson, is a name a lot of us softball fans have heard for a while now. The star offensive performer, Robinson, is batting a .345 average with 10 home runs and 41 runs driven in on the season. If our pitching is not aggressive and confident in the circle tomorrow, I would not be surprised to see us give up a few hard hits to this very deep offensive line-up. But, let’s hope that our pitching stays hot and can limit the damage and runs!
Chelsea Wilkinson showed just how dominant she can be in the circle when she tossed a 3-hit shutout with 6 strikeouts against South Carolina this past weekend in Columbia. I really hope that the coaches turn to her to start this contest in the circle tomorrow, and it would not shock me to see her get in a few hacks at the plate also. If everything goes in favor of the Dawgs, I am sure that they would like to use multiple pitchers in the circle, assuming the contest lasts a full seven innings. One would have to think that Morgan Montemayor would be brilliant in relief against a team that I’m sure never gets to see 70mph pitching, or at least not very often at all.
The week has gotten off to a great start thus far with Geri raking in the SEC Freshman of the Week award, as well as the USA National Softball Player of the Week. I do not want to put any pressure on Geri Ann, but boy would I love to see her hit a bomb or two tomorrow against the Spartans. With the offense running on all cylinders, we have the means to overwhelm this USC-Upstate team from the early goings of the contest!
As always, Go Dawgs!
#BeatUpstate #CommitToTheG #SicEm