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!
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! 😀
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!