The No. 7 Georgia softball team will have two chances today to do something that it was unable to accomplish on Saturday ‚Äî beat NC State.
The Bulldogs lost 5-4 to the Wolfpack Saturday in the third game of the NCAA Athens Regional, making it necessary for Georgia (46-13) to win three consecutive games to advance to next weekend‚Äôs NCAA Super Regional.
But before they could even think about avenging their loss to NC State (36-16), the Bulldogs had to face UAB, which defeated Chattanooga 9-2 in Saturday‚Äôs first elimination game.
Georgia took care of that little piece of business, knocking off the Blazers 3-0 to set the stage for today‚Äôs battle with the Wolfpack. The two teams will meet at noon, with another game set for 2:30 p.m. if necessary.
Chelsea Wilkinson ‚Äî who was tagged with Saturday‚Äôs early loss, despite striking out nine ‚Äî earned the pitching victory over UAB with a career-best 14 strikeouts, including striking out the side in the seventh inning. Paige Wilson, who had a two-run home run in the fifth inning, and Anna Swafford, who recorded a solo shot in the second inning, paced the Bulldogs‚Äô offensive attack against the Blazers.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm proud of our two big, clutch hits from Swafford and Red (Wilson),‚Äù Georgia head coach Lu Harris-Champer said. ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt say enough about Chelsea, too. I thought she was absolutely phenomenal and really led our team in a number of different ways.‚Äù
While Georgia had little trouble pushing runs across on Friday in a 9-0 victory over Chattanooga, the Bulldogs had no such luck against NC State, stranding 13 runners and recording just six hits.
‚ÄúWe had so many opportunities to put runs across the board and that will be our goal, to put runs across the board when they‚Äôre sitting there,‚Äù Champer said. ‚ÄúWhen I look at my chart, I see we had 19 opportunities with people on base. That‚Äôs where we need to make sure we‚Äôre dialed in and driving that ball up the middle.‚Äù
Part of the Wolfpack‚Äôs strategy was to pitch carefully to Georgia‚Äôs big sticks and the gameplan worked well as Emily Weiman walked 11 batters and faced bases-loaded situations in three innings, but managed to wiggle out of any significant damage, allowing four earned runs and six hits to go with five strikeouts.
‚ÄúSome of those walks were situational walks,‚Äù NC State coach Shawn Rychick said. ‚ÄúWe picked our poison in that lineup a little bit and felt we had opportunities to get an out and work away from some of their hitters. Today there were moments we felt like ‚ÄòThis is our out; we‚Äôll get out of this inning.‚Äô We played it all the way to the end. We were pretty confident if we made some pitches through their lineup we could get some out.‚Äù
‚ÄúShe did a really good job,‚Äù Georgia‚Äôs Paige Wilson, who had four of her team‚Äôs six hits, said of Weiman (30-13). ‚ÄúShe went in and out and had us chase balls and we didn‚Äôt take what the umpire gave us.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs Alex Hugo walked three times, as did Tina Iosefa and Swafford. Perhaps the Bulldogs‚Äô best opportunity to break the game open came in the third when they loaded the bases with only one out, but pinch-hitters Maeve McGuire and Kaylee Williams both struck out looking as the threat was extinguished.
Wilkinson recorded gave up early home runs to NC State‚Äôs Molly Hutchinson and Lana Van Dyken, forcing Georgia to play catch-up from the first inning.
The Wolfpack appeared to put the game away in the top of the seventh by scoring two runs on a single by Van Dyken to go up 5-2.
But the Bulldogs battled back with two runs in their half of the seventh as Swafford and Katie Browne walked and moved up a base on pinch-hitter Malia Rivers‚Äô fielder‚Äôs choice. Swafford scored on a fielder‚Äôs choice by Sam LaZear and pinch-runner Niaja Griffin scored on a single by Paige Wilson. The game ended with Geri Ann Glasco‚Äôs groundout to second baseman Chelsea Tate.