Maya Branch Named to 2013 SEC Community Service Team

As announced by the Southeastern Conference on Monday morning, Senior outfielder Maya Branch has been named to the 2013 SEC Community Service Team for her hard work and vounteering in the Athens-Clarke County community over the past several years. Maya is a great player with a lot of positive energy and leadership skills! Maya’s presence on the field will truly be missed next year! In the end, softball is just a game, and Maya has taken her hard work and committment off the field to better the quality of her community and fellow Bulldogs. Congratulations to Maya on a much-deserved award!

Maya Branch watches intently as her team battles LSU in Athens.

Maya Branch watches intently as her team battles LSU in Athens. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

I have been watching Maya play since she first arrived in Athens as a freshman. It seems like yesterday that she belted a home run in her rookie season, and alas, it is now close to time for her and the two other seniors to part ways with Athens. I had the opportunity to ask Maya what her favorite part of being a Georgia Bulldog has been over the past four years and she gave me a prompt response:

“Some of the greatest moments to me were playing with a competitive group of girls who helped to define what friendship really meant in every aspect of the word,” says the Senior outfielder from Lithonia.

Maya told me that while she enjoyed her entire carrer as a Bulldog, that the big time games and rivalry games were tons of fun to experience!

“It was great to play big games at a standing-room only stadium, all while not being nervous due to being surrounded by so much love and support. It helped knowing that I was never alone in any situation because we [the team] are not only teammates, but family as well.”

Congratulations to Maya Branch on a succesful career in the classroom, on the field, and also in the community! It has been a pleasure watching this young lady and the other two Georgia Seniors, Tess Sito and Christine Olney, play in the Red & Black for the past few years. Go Dawgs!

(Story portion below from SECdigitalNetwork.com)

Branch served as a mentor for Timothy Road Elementary School for the past two years, volunteering every week in the fall and at least twice a month during the spring. She spent every Saturday last fall volunteering at the East Friendship Baptist Church soup kitchen feeding the homeless and has participated in S.O.A.R (Special Olympics Annual Run at Hilsman Middle School for the past three years. Branch worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Athens, served as an Usher at Morton’s Theatre and participated in Reading Day at Gaines Elementary School. She volunteered at the Athens Animal Shelter, helped in the beatification of the Athens-area with the Barber Street Clean Up Project and spent time working with Kits for Kids in Haiti. Branch worked with outreach projects and learning services at different schools and academies with the Entomology department at Georgia from 2010-2013.

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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

 

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)

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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 Hosts USC-Upstate for Midweek Showdown

On Wednesday, the Georgia Bulldogs will play host to the team with the best record in all of the Carolinas. You may be thinking about North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, or an array of other teams, but guess again! The USC-Upstate Spartans enter Athens with an impressive 35-5 record and sit exactly one spot above our Bulldogs in the RPI at 38th in the country. This fact alone (38 RPI vs 39 RPI) is what, perhaps, makes this one of the more interesting non-conference contests this year. Not only do the Spartans have a great record, but they have the third best team batting average in the nation (.349) and have the second best fielding percentage in the nation (.982). Personally, I think this is going to be a great midweek contest and should feature some hot offense and some great pitching. It is noteworthy that Upstate was ranked in last week’s NFCA Poll, claiming the #24 ranking before being defeated twice over the weekend by the Lipscomb Bison in Atlantic Sun conference play.

Niaja Griffin looks to build on her past success against the Spartans in tomorrow's contest in Athens.

Niaja Griffin looks to build on her past success against the Spartans in tomorrow’s contest in Athens. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)

Georgia leads the all-time series between the two schools with a 2-0 record. Georgia defeated the Spartans last year by a 7-3 final score and also defeated Upstate in 2011 by a 9-1 score. It is also worth mentioning that these two programs played some very competitive games back during Fall Ball that were extremely fun to watch. Georgia claimed both victories in Fall Ball and Niaja Griffin hit one of the longest home runs I have seen in quite sometime off of Jamie Ujvari. I guess the Spartans will be delighted to see Niaja slapping from the left side this time around rather than slugging away from the right. But, who knows? I would not be surprised to see Niaja get an attempt from the right side in tomorrow’s outing based on her success hitting for power against the Spartans in the Fall.

In the circle, the Spartans have a talented duo of Ace hurlers in the form of Jamie Ujvari and Hannah Alexander. Both Ujvari and Alexander are very good rise ball pitchers with great movement and good speed also. Jamie Ujvari is sporting an impressive 16-1 record to go along with a 1.58 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 101.2 innings pitched. With similar numbers, experienced Upstate pitcher Hannah Alexander has compiled a 15-2 record, a 1.71 ERA, and has fanned 106 batters in 106.2 innings thrown. Without a doubt, this is the most dynamic and feared pitching duo in the entire A-SUN conference, and perhaps one of the best staffs on the East Coast. This team has been on the rise for a few years now, and I think their pitching has been the main reason for this rise in performance. Do not get me wrong, this team is now showing off how good they can whack the ball, but in the past it has been their dominating rise ball pitchers that have carried the program.

USC-Upstate freshman co-#1, Jamie Ujvari, pitches in a game in 2013. (Courtesy USC Upstate Athletics)

As mentioned above, the Upstate Spartans are third in the country for team batting average with an eye-popping .349 clip. Not only does this team hit for average, but they also strike with the home run ball more often than not. With respect to average, the Spartans are led at the plate by Maddison Kieffer. Kieffer is batting a whopping .430 tally with 5 home runs and 33 runs batted in. It is extremely hard to pinpoint which players on this team are the offensive juggernauts, simply because they all have incredible averages and power numbers! The team’s leader in RBIs, Shellie Robinson, is a name a lot of us softball fans have heard for a while now. The star offensive performer, Robinson, is batting a .345 average with 10 home runs and 41 runs driven in on the season. If our pitching is not aggressive and confident in the circle tomorrow, I would not be surprised to see us give up a few hard hits to this very deep offensive line-up. But, let’s hope that our pitching stays hot and can limit the damage and runs!

Upstate’s Shellie Robinson connects for a hit in a 2013 game. (Courtesy USC Upstate Athletics)

Chelsea Wilkinson showed just how dominant she can be in the circle when she tossed a 3-hit shutout with 6 strikeouts against South Carolina this past weekend in Columbia. I really hope that the coaches turn to her to start this contest in the circle tomorrow, and it would not shock me to see her get in a few hacks at the plate also. If everything goes in favor of the Dawgs, I am sure that they would like to use multiple pitchers in the circle, assuming the contest lasts a full seven innings. One would have to think that Morgan Montemayor would be brilliant in relief against a team that I’m sure never gets to see 70mph pitching, or at least not very often at all.

The week has gotten off to a great start thus far with Geri raking in the SEC Freshman of the Week award, as well as the USA National Softball Player of the Week. I do not want to put any pressure on Geri Ann, but boy would I love to see her hit a bomb or two tomorrow against the Spartans. With the offense running on all cylinders, we have the means to overwhelm this USC-Upstate team from the early goings of the contest!

As always, Go Dawgs!

#BeatUpstate          #CommitToTheG          #SicEm

Glasco Nabs USA Softball National Player of the Week

I would like to preface this story by saying how awesome of a feat this is to accomplish. Not only has Geri Ann been awarded the SEC Freshman of the Week award on three separate occassion, but this is her third National Player of the Week honor after garnering NFCA POW and College Sports Madness POW honors earlier in the year. Geri Ann is the first rookie who has earned the USA Softball National POW award this year and is really blazing the trail as a Bulldog rookie! We are going to be seeing big things from Geri Ann for a few more years, but here’s hoping to a strong finish to 2013. Go, Geri!!! Go Dawgs!!!

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(Story Courtesy USA SOFTBALL)

OKLAHOMA CITY —  Geri Ann Glasco (Watkinsville, Ga.) has been named the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week for April 8-14, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. The Georgia freshman led her team from the plate with a .412 average over five games last week and belted four homeruns in the process. Each of her homers were either go-ahead homeruns or game-winners. Glasco helped Georgia to a 4-1 record on the week.

“I am fortunate to be a player on a team with awesome teammates that motivate and build each other daily in practice,” said Glasco. “While being recognized by such a great organization is so exciting and appreciated, victory on the field with my team is the ultimate goal and I am thrilled to have had a part in helping my team pick up some wins.”
Glasco began the week going three-for-six with three RBI and a run scored against Western Carolina to help Georgia to 12-0 and 9-0 wins. In their weekend series with South Carolina, the Georgia native put on a hitting clinic from the batter’s box. On Saturday, Glasco hit three, two-run homeruns and the Bulldogs needed every one of them as they escaped with a 7-6 win. On Sunday, in the final game of the series, the freshman came up big again when she hit her fourth two-run homer of the weekend. The two runs would be the only scored on the day as Georgia defeated South Carolina 2-0 to take the series.
“We have an amazing group of superbly talented student-athletes that compete every single day in practice to make themselves and the team better on game days,” said Georgia Head Coach Lu Harris-Champer. “This past weekend Geri Ann produced in key situations over and over and showed what being a Bulldog is all about. She is a gifted and truly clutch hitter as well as being an extremely hard worker and a fierce competitor that exemplifies the type of players we have at Georgia.”
This is the first USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week honor for the freshman and the first Player of the Week honors for Georgia since Brianna Hesson won the award in week seven of the 2011 season.
Geri Ann Glasco prepares to swing in a game against Campbell earlier this season.

Geri Ann Glasco prepares to swing in a game against Campbell earlier this season. (Courtesy GeorgiaDogs.com, shot by Evan Stichler)