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

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

 

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)