With the first pitch of Georgia’s softball season set to be thrown out this weekend, the Bulldogs just want to put the bat on the ball.
Georgia’s 2013 season ended with a 2-0 loss to Arizona State in the NCAA tournament in Tempe, Ariz. The Bulldogs, however, have a new destination for the 2014 postseason.
“We’re going to OKC (Oklahoma City),” sophomore pitcher and first baseman Geri Ann Glasco said. “That’s our motto every year. We’re going to get there. We’re going to get it done; not only going there, we want to win it.”
Following a 40-21 season in which Georgia dropped just nine games at home, the new bar has already been set.
“Absolutely,” head coach Lu Harris-Champer said. “The goal is postseason for sure.”
The only question remaining; how does Georgia plan on getting there?
After finishing last season with a team batting average of .331 and a few key All-Southeastern Conference Team members returning to the Bulldogs’ lineup, the solution is clear.
“We do have a stellar offense, and that is one of those external goals,” Harris-Champer said. “But the main thing is to see the ball, hit the ball.”
Harris-Champer has urged her team to start with the small goals, and work its way up.
“Our biggest goal this year is to get 10 runs on the board every game,” sophomore Kaylee Puailoa said. “Just get 10 runs and be fighting for that every single game.”
Puailoa, a 2013 Second Team Easton All-American, said Georgia’s offense has to reach its team goal consistently. She knocked in 54 last season, finishing just behind 2013 First Team Easton All-American Paige Wilson and Glasco who had 66 and 61 a piece.
Georgia’s offense is stacked, so the key will be staying collected through a long season. One way Harris-Champer believes that will happen is by taking a step back and looking at each game as just that, a game.
“Really just playing the game one pitch at a time and competing, and having fun; enjoying the opportunity to compete versus putting too much pressure on yourselves,” Harris-Champer said.
Along with the fun comes confidence, a trait Puailoa says she would like to see her team exhibit often this season, and nothing says confidence like home runs. The Buena Park, Calif., native sent 16 four-base hits over the fence last season, while Wilson and Glasco hit a combined 35. As a team, Georgia’s home run total reached 93 in 2013.
“A big thing for us is to have our confidence there; get our swag back,” Puailoa said. “The quickest way I would say is just to hit, hit and hit.”
Defense is an area Georgia’s players put a great deal of emphasis on during the preseason.
While Glasco has been a force with her bat as a result of the work she and her father, Gerry, have put in throughout her career, she plans to transition some of that power to the mound.
“I think pitching for the most part,” Glaso said of her preseason improvements. “Just going out there and trying to make minor adjustments to the pitches I was already using, and just going into this year and hopefully just being a little more dominant on the mound.”
Another pitcher Georgia will look to for ace performances in 2014 is sophomore Chelsea Wilkinson, a Taylorsville, N.C., native who was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team in 2013. While last season’s accolades were an honor, Wilkinson realizes they won’t earn wins this year.
“It’s exciting because it’s what you dream about as a kid, but I’m just going to go out there and compete for my team and do what I do in practice,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson finished with a record of 8-6 last season and an earned run average of 3.71. Experience like that as a freshman is likely to reap benefits in later years.
Harris-Champer says the same applies for all her freshmen if they relax and play to their strengths.
“You know what the SEC is and you know what to expect going into it,” Harris-Champer said. “You know what your preseason can do for your SEC time, but the main thing is just to be themselves.”
The goals are clear cut, and the path to Oklahoma City starts with a season-opener against Winthrop in Athens at 3 p.m. today. Georgia’s players are focused, that’s for certain.
Harris-Champer has laid the goals out for her players, and now they just have to play.
“That’s kind of what our coach says,” Glasco said. “Oklahoma City; what do you want to do to get there?”