It’s entirely appropriate that Georgia shortstop Paige Wilson drove in the run that clinched the NCAA Athens Regional for the No. 7 Bulldogs late Sunday evening.
Chelsea Wilkinson (20) during Georgia's game against N.C. State in the NCAA Softball Regionals at Jack Turner Stadium on Sunday, May 18, 2014 in Athens, Ga.
In five games over the weekend, Wilson recorded 11 hits, including four on Sunday, a day when the fourth-seeded Bulldogs needed to beat NC State twice to advance to the NCAA Super Regional.
“Paige is a phenomenal hitter and she does her best work in big games,” Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer said of Wilson, who had six extra-base hits and a .700 on-base percentage for the weekend. “The bigger the game, the better she hits. She does it for her team.”
Georgia (49-13) smacked the Wolfpack 8-0 in five innings in the deciding game and will host Baylor (45-14) at 2 p.m. Friday in a double-elimination series that will determine one of the eight entrants in the Women’s College World Series. This will be the Bulldogs’ sixth Super Regional appearance in the last seven years.
In Sunday’s first game — which was delayed some seven hours due to rainy conditions — Georgia earned its shot at a second game with six home runs as they buried the Wolfpack 9-1.
Although Wilson had an unforgettable series, the junior shortstop was far from the only Georgia hero on Sunday.
Pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson (33-8) tossed two masterful games, including a no-hitter in the deciding contest and a two-hitter in four innings in Sunday’s first game. Geri Ann Glasco and Tina Iosefa homered twice in Sunday’s first game, and catcher Katie Brown drilled a home run in each game to keep the pressure on the Wolfpack (36-18), who seemed to lack the verve they possessed when they defeated the Bulldogs 5-4 on Saturday.
“I don’t think there was a difference (between Saturday and Sunday),” Wilkinson, who recorded her second no-hitter of the season, the third in her career and just the second postseason no-hitter in program history. “I was just going out there fighting and trying to make good pitches. Tonight it was a little bit different because we knew if you lose, you go home. And we weren’t ready to go home yet. We wanted to keep playing.”
In Sunday’s opener, the Bulldogs came out with an aggressive attitude and did a lot of damage, going after NC State hurler Emily Weiman’s first pitches. Georgia recorded 10 hits and left but six runners on base, far less than the 13 they left stranded against the Wolfpack on Saturday. The result was the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back.
“I told coach Gerry (Glasco) before the game, ‘Be aggressive. Be aggressive,’” Harris-Champer said. “By the fourth inning he was like, ‘Never tell me that again.’ And I think the team really responded well to that.”
Besides Glasco (three RBIs), Iosefa (four RBIs) and Browne (one RBI), Georgia also got a home run from Anna Swafford.
In the second game, the Bulldogs once again took an early lead, scoring two runs in the first inning and four runs in the third, when Georgia sent seven batters to the plate, with Browne, Swafford and Kaylee Puailoa providing run-scoring hits.
“It’s huge to keep the momentum in our dugout,” Wilkinson, who had 10 strikeouts on the day, said of getting early run support, said. “We keep passing our at-bats back and we keep rolling with it.”
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Georgia – which last weekend won its first Southeastern Conference tournament — tallied two runs to invoke the run rule and bring to a close a remarkable regional where the Bulldogs had to win three games to keep their season alive. Pinch-hitter Maeve McGuire drove in pinch-runner Niaja Griffin with the seventh run and scored the game-and-series clincher on Wilson’s RBI single.
“I’m not ready to be done with this team,” Harris-Champer said. “This team is special. They lock arms, they band together and they fight. I’m so proud we’ll have the opportunity to continue to compete.”