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)

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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 Edged by Upstate, Prepares to Host Texas A&M This Weekend

In what may be one of the more unusual stat sheets of the season, the USC-Upstate Spartans managed to edge the Georgia Bulldogs by a final score of 8-5, despite only registering 4 hits through the entire seven inning contest. Georgia led the game 4-0 after two innings and Chelsea Wilkinson threw 4 innings of perfect ball. Nonetheless, costly errors and a wretched call at second base sealed Georgia’s fate as they were unable to mount a comeback against a very talented and well-coached Spartans team. While the loss was somewhat disheartening, there were a lot of positive things to be taken away from the contest. Chelsea Wilkinson was absolutely wonderful in the circle and is heating up at the perfect time for the Dawgs! Not only this, but the Bulldogs pounded out 11 hits off a very talented Upstate pitching staff, despite scoring only 5 runs in the outing.

No offense to the Spartans, but if Georgia is going to be more competitive and go far in the post season, we are going to have to fight in the face of adversity and beat any mid-major programs that we face, Upstate being no exception. The girls tried to rally in both the sixth and seventh innings, but alas could not get timely hitting from the power hitters to score the slappers that had reached base. The good thing that can be drawn from this outing is that both Niaja Griffin and Sam LaZear are on fire at the plate and are finding consistent ways to get on base for our big hitters. This loss to Upstate means nothing in the long run, as the girls should be focused on beating the teams we need to beat in conference. The best teams in the country have very short memories and learn to use the painful losses as game fuel to power their aggression. Here’s hoping for a great weekend against some very stiff competition in the form of the Texas A&M Aggies!

Sophomore slap-hitter Niaja Griffin went 3-4 on Wednesday against USC Upstate.

Sophomore slap-hitter Niaja Griffin went 3-4 on Wednesday against USC Upstate. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

On Friday, Georgia welcomes the 11th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to Jack Turner Stadium for the first game of what should prove to be a very exciting three-game SEC series. Not only is Texas A&M having a great year thus far, but it is noteworthy that 2013 marks the Aggies first year as members of the Southeastern Conference. I can think of no better way to welcome the Aggies to the SEC than with a Bulldog series win! 😀

Texas A&M enters Athens with an impressive 35-9 record, despite sporting a 6-8 conference record. If that does not attest to just how tough of a conference the SEC is, then I do not know what does. In their most recent SEC outing, the Aggies dropped two out of their three games against the LSU Tigers in College Park. TAMU has beaten their fair share of ranked foes this year…Alabama, Missouri, UCLA, Louisiana-Lafayette, and LSU to name just a few. The Aggies are one of the more powerful hitting teams in the SEC and can hit the long ball at just about any pitstop in the batting order. The Aggies have hit a whopping 76 bombs on the year, just three less than our nation-leading Bulldogs. No doubt about it, pitching is going to have to step up big time against this feared Aggies line-up in order to stand a chance against some of their offensive talent, but with the way Chelsea Wilkinson has been throwing, I would look to her to get one or two starts this weekend.

The Aggies are led at the plate by sophomore slugger, Nicole Morgan. Morgan is batting a .372 clip with 14 home runs and 48 RBI, while stellar rookie Cali Lanphear is batting .359 with 15 home runs and 43 runs driven in. These two young ladies supply a large portion of the power on this Aggies squad, although TAMU has three other batters who have all belted ten home runs on the season (May, Dumezich, and Tycarczyk). The scary thing about this batting order is that they can take you deep at any stop along the way 1-9, and they also have speedy lefties placed in the order also. No doubt about it, this team knows how to score runs against any pitching they see, hence why we are really going to have to buckle down on defense and make it easier on our pitchers than we have been as of late. LSU was able to dominate the TAMU hitters for the most part, and I think if we can come out firing on all cylinders in this series that we have a good chance of scoring more runs than the Aggies in at least two of the contests.

It would be extremely naive to think that the Aggies have defeated the top-notch teams that they have on the back of a solid offense alone. This is certainly not the case in 2013. Mel Dumezich has proved to be the workhorse so far this year, as she has pitched 174 out of the 275 innings this season for the Aggies. Dumezich has amassed a 2.13 ERA to go along with a 23-6 record and has fanned 188 batters in 174 innings pitched. There is no denying that the TAMU squad relies heavily on good pitching performances from Dumezich, although they have often went to their #2 pitcher, Lauren Ainsley (11-3, 2.21 ERA), when needed. After watching Dumezich perform against LSU and against Tennessee, she has shown that while she is very talented, she can get rattled at times and give up the dreaded long ball. It helps that we tend to hit fast pitching well, and that we tend to hit a lot of long balls as well. If our slappers can stay hot and keep getting on base in front of our power hitters, expect the Dawgs to score their fair share of runs.

Texas A&M star pitcher, Mel Dumezich, in action during a 2013 game. (Courtesy ESPN.com)

Texas A&M is chock-full of talent in every position on the field, as well as in every spot in the batting order. Georgia is going to have to play the best they have the entire season and for a full seven innings in each contest. We have been a little inconsistent at times, but I know without a doubt that we can take 2/3 teams from these TAMU Aggies. What should help fuel the girls at this time of the year is the fact that there are so many people out there who are doubting what they can do. Outside noise, heartbreaking losses, and an aggressive attitude are surely serving as fuel to push this team to want to come out and dominate the Aggies. The fun thing is that this team has not yet fully reached its true potential, although the home stretch of the season is now and the finish line is barely in our sights. I have complete confidence and faith that this team is going to come out this weekend and play their hearts out for every out on the field. The key to winning is playing good ole’ fashioned Georgia Softball and making it a nightmare for the opponent to have to come in to Athens and play us.

When all is said and done, only one team will win the last game of the season, and the possibilities are endless as there is a lot of great talent playing between the chalk lines here in 2013. But, my point is that every team has their shot and their set of chances, and now is our time to grasp the opportunities and push hard to win! The goal is to win the last game of the season while picking up some very good, competitive wins along the way. I have said it once, and I will say it again: there is nothing scarier than a group of stud softballers that have all the confidence in the world. I believe in this team and know that great things are headed their way, although they are going to have to push themselves and play inspiring ball for a full 21 innings this weekend. I believe!!!

As always, Go Dawgs!!!

#BeatTAMU          #CommitToTheG          #SicEm

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

 

Georgia Sweeps Western Carolina, Splits to Open Series Against South Carolina

I recently purchased a new laptop after my old one finally died, hence the delay in updating the blog over the past few weeks. Do not worry loyal followers and fans, as long as there is such a thing as Georgia Bulldog Softball, I will be blogging and keeping everyone up to date. This post is a hybrid re-cap of the midweek double dip with Western Carolina and the opening two games of the South Carolina series. Georgia swept Western Carolina, 12-0 (5 innings) and 9-0 (5 innings), before splitting the opening two games in Columbia by final scores of 2-6 and 7-6.

In the midweek games against Western Carolina, the Bulldogs managed to score an eye-popping 21 runs combined. What makes those numbers even more intriguing is that the UGA offense scored all of their runs without hitting a single home run. We are going to need more line drive and doubles power if we want to make it deep into the postseason. We cannot always win on the long ball, as made evident by the series with Tennessee. Kaylee “Moose” Puailoa led the Bulldogs at the plate against Western Carolina by going 5-6 with a team-best 8 runs batted in. Morgan Montemayor picked up the win in the first contest, while Geri Ann Glasco got the win in the second game.

Chelsea Wilkinson in relief action against Western Carolina on Wednesday in Athens.

Chelsea Wilkinson in relief action against Western Carolina on Wednesday in Athens. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

In the first game of the SEC series with South Carolina, Georgia fell by a final score of 6-2 to the Gamecocks. Geri Ann Glasco fell to 17-5 on the year and the Bulldogs fell to 6-7 in SEC play following the loss. South Carolina wasted no time getting on the board, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second on an RBI hit and a throwing error. In the bottom of the third inning, Hawkins delivered a two-run hit to the grass to bring the South Carolina lead to 4-0. Georgia would finally get on the board in the top of the fourth inning on a solo shot over the fence from Tess Sito. Another two-run single, this time in the bottom of the fifth by Sami Garcia, scored two more runs for the Gamecocks to extend the lead to 6-1. Georgia would try to scrap back, putting two runners on with no outs in the seventh and final inning, but alas, the Bulldogs could only manage a lone run and fell 6-2 in regulation. South Carolina hit the ball hard off of Glasco all night long, but the lack of timely defense was truly what let this game get out of hand for our Bulldogs.

In the second contest against the Gamecocks, Geri Ann Glasco hit three moonshots off of two different South Carolina pitchers to extend her SEC-leading home run total to 16 long balls. With the three hits, Glasco also put herself in first place overall in the SEC for RBIs with 51 runs driven in on the season so far. Morgan Montemayor got the start for the Bulldogs and picked up the win, while Chelsea Wilkinson picked up the save for the Bulldogs in the final frame. This game was a thriller to the very end, but had a somewhat non-climactic ending (depending on who you ask) as the final out of the game was recorded when a South Carolina runner was off of the base in some way while the pitcher was in the circle.

Geri Ann Glasco hit a towering shot over the fence to get the Georgia scoring going in the top of the first inning after Paige Wilson hit a hard double to start the game. South Carolina forced the Dawgs to make some sloppy plays in the bottom frame of the opening inning and plated four unearned runs off of MoMo. This would be all the scoring the Gamecocks would get until the seventh and final frame when things REALLY got interesting. With two outs in the top of the second inning, Paige Wilson singled before Geri Ann Glasco hit her second towering shot of the day to tie the game at 4-4. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning when Kaylee Puailoa (Moooooooooose!) hit a no-doubter over the right center field wall. In the seventh inning, despite having already hit two home runs on the day, Geri Ann Glasco just was not through yet as she hit her third two-run BOMB of the day, this time off of last night’s winning pitcher (Sarrat) to increase the lead to 7-4. But, just when you thought the game was over, think again! South Carolina rallied with one out to plate two earned runs off of MoMo, before she was pulled for rookie Chelsea Wilkinson. Chelsea walked the bases loaded with one out before retiring the following batter on a routine pop-up on the infield. Then, in somewhat odd fashion, one of Carolina’s runners was called out for being off the base…or something like that? Either way, our Dawgs and Dawg fans will take a win no matter what it looks like!

With her three home runs on the day, Geri Ann Glasco moved into first place for home runs in the SEC (16) and RBI (51). Congratulations, Geri! Keep it up!!

Geri Ann Glasco went 3-4 with three home runs and 6 runs batted in on Saturday against the Gamecocks.

Geri Ann Glasco went 3-4 with three home runs and 6 runs batted in on Saturday against the Gamecocks. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

I have to admit, this season has been a roller coaster ride so far, and yes there have been some major bumps along the way. The girls got off to a rough start and let their nerves get the best of them as they dropped their fair share of early-season contests. Then, they got extremely hot and ripped off 17 consecutive wins before being swept by a gritty Arkansas squad. At first glance, the three losses to Arkansas seemed like an extremely bad omen, but after the way the Hogs have been playing as of late, I really am not too bothered by them. Could we have played better against the Hogs and taken a win or two? Sure. Did we? No. The girls rebounded and won their mid-week game before being outplayed and swept in the series against Tennessee. Base-running mistakes, defensive errors, and lack of clutch hitting sealed the Dawg’s fate against the veteran Lady Vols club. You really cannot feel too horrible about losing to a Top-5 national program with a plethora of All-American players in the line-up. In fact, I actually did not feel too bad at all about the way we played against Tennessee considering how much closer and competitive the games would have been with a little better defense and base running.

With regards to the loss last night to the Gamecocks, the girls simply were baffled by the off-speed junk and failed to put the bat on the ball when it mattered most. You cannot win ball games when you leave 12 runners on base against a pitcher with a good change-up. The girls had a ton of opportunities to score a lot of runs in game one but just could not seem to catch a break. Not taking any credit away from this talented Gamecocks team, as they have played close games with just about everyone in the SEC. South Carolina played three incredibly close contests with Alabama and last week managed to take 1/3 games from LSU. The girls came out today and responded well with their backs against the wall for the third consecutive week. Following a logic that I touched upon earlier in the season, South Carolina beat LSU, who defeated Texas A&M today, which means we have a chance against both the Tigers and the Aggies…both series which are in Athens! As far as the series against Florida goes, I think it can go either way considering that both rosters are extremely young and inexperienced. Florida lost a game to Auburn, just before the Dawgs swept Auburn, so there lies that logic again! 😉

I have been very pleased with the way our slap hitters, LaZear and Griffin, have stepped up as of late. Both girls have been finesse slapping and power slapping for average over the past two weeks, and that is EXACTLY what we need to do to provide multiple runs for out team when we do hit the long ball or the hard line drives! I think the coaching staff must have had a good talk with the girls after the loss last night because the offense seemed to be fired up today! Morgan Montemayor showed that she can indeed go an extended outing after she pitched six innings without giving up an earned run. Sure, she got touched up right there at the end, but she had to have been getting tired and a little predictable at this point. Great job, MoMo! Keep it up because we need you! Despite only having to truly face two batters, you have to give a ton of credit to the rookie hurler, Chelsea Wilkinson, for coming in and ending the game in Georgia’s favor. Good job, Chels!!!

I have a really good feeling about this club, and if Lu will keep the defense with Sito at shortstop, Blanco at second base, and Paige at third base, I think we have a great shot of limiting opponents to 2-3 runs or less a game. We know we can score, but we have to have the confidence to know that we can hold opponents to low run totals. Sometimes, the game seems overly complicated and can create so many mental blocks that make playing frustrating and intimidating. In reality, to be successful you cannot over complicate the game.

All it takes is to give it your all on the field for a full seven innings, and to realize that the game is as simple as getting outs and scoring runs. I feel a good wave of energy coming our way and here’s to finishing the season strong and on the right foot!

As always, Go Dawgs!!!

#CommitToTheG

Tess Sito played a brilliant stint at SS against South Carolina on Saturday.

Tess Sito played a brilliant stint at SS against South Carolina on Saturday. Sito (pictured above) is shown in action on Wednesday against Western Carolina. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)