UGA softball takes aim at Baylor in NCAA Super Regional

Paige Wilson is one of just a handful of Georgia softball players who knows what it’s like to compete in an NCAA Super Regional, and her memories aren’t great ones.

UGA softball takes aim at Baylor in NCAA Super Regional
Chris Starrs

The Bulldogs’ last appearance in what basically amounts to the final qualifying round for the Women’s College World Series was short and anything but sweet. Traveling in 2012 to Knoxville to face Tennessee, Georgia lost a pair of one-run games to the Volunteers to bring the season to a heartbreaking close.

“I’m looking forward to an entirely different experience this time,” said Wilson, the 5-foot-7 junior shortstop who last weekend helped propel the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (49-13) into the Super Regional with 11 hits, including four doubles and a home run, and six RBIs.

With two victories over NC State on the final day of the Athens Regional last weekend, coach Lu Harris-Champer’s team will host Baylor (45-14) in a best-two-of-three Super Regional series beginning at 2 p.m. today. The two teams meet again at noon on Saturday, with an “if necessary” game set for 3 p.m.

Tenth-seeded Baylor reached the Super Regional stage by defeating Northwestern and Tulsa (twice) in last week’s Waco Regional and the Bears have won 13 of their last 14. This marks the team’s second visit to Athens in postseason play; Baylor advanced to the WCWS in 2011 after taking two of three from the Bulldogs.

A loss to NC State last Saturday notwithstanding, Georgia easily cleared the Regional hurdle, winning three elimination games by a combined 21-1 score. Having to win two games to stay alive, the Bulldogs ran the Wolfpack out of Jack Turner Stadium as Chelsea Wilkinson threw a no-hitter and the Georgia offense cranked out seven home runs.

“It was a wake-up call last weekend and the big deal this weekend is going out there and getting that first game,” said sophomore Geri Ann Glasco, who drilled two home runs in her team’s 9-1 win over NC State. “We know we can do it and we want to put some doubt in their minds that they can’t do it. Getting ahead is a big deal this weekend because you don’t have time to mess around and lose a couple of games.”

Wilkinson, who is 33-8 with a 1.69 ERA and 294 strikeouts, concurred with Glasco that the loss to the Wolfpack got the Bulldogs a bit stirred up.

“We knew what was at stake, so it definitely lit a little fire under us because we knew if we lost again we were done and that’s not what we’re here to do — we’re here to win it,” the 5-8 sophomore said. “So we came out aggressive and attacked the ball more the next two games. It definitely lit a little fire.”

Georgia has won 12 of its last 13 games and captured the Southeastern Conference tournament title for the first time two weeks ago, but there’s reason to believe from within that the Bulldogs can still do more.

“Our team is in a great spot right now and I still believe we haven’t played our best game yet and that’s an exciting way to feel,” said Glasco. “We’re ready to play — we’re tired of watching them on film and we want to get out there and play them … We’re definitely peaking at the right time. We’re not completely to the peak yet, but we’re playing good ball. We have to keep doing our thing and getting the little things done.”

While there are a few players around the program (which lost in the shuffle last weekend won its 800th game) that have been to a Super Regional, no one on the Georgia roster has yet to reach the summit in Oklahoma City and they desperately want to be the third team in program history to make the WCWS.

“I want to go so bad,” said Wilson. “When I was a freshman, everybody was talking about what a great experience it is. They said it gives you goose bumps when you walk on to the field – that’s what I want to feel.”

“We’re real excited,” added Wilkinson. “The World Series is something you watch growing up when you’re a little girl. It’s something we all want to do, so we’re ready to fight.”

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