Paige Wilson is one of just a handful of Georgia softball players who knows what it‚Äôs like to compete in an NCAA Super Regional, and her memories aren‚Äôt great ones.
The Bulldogs‚Äô last appearance in what basically amounts to the final qualifying round for the Women‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm looking forward to an entirely different experience this time,‚Äù 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúif necessary‚Äù game set for 3 p.m.
Tenth-seeded Baylor reached the Super Regional stage by defeating Northwestern and Tulsa (twice) in last week‚Äôs Waco Regional and the Bears have won 13 of their last 14. This marks the team‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúIt was a wake-up call last weekend and the big deal this weekend is going out there and getting that first game,‚Äù said sophomore Geri Ann Glasco, who drilled two home runs in her team‚Äôs 9-1 win over NC State. ‚ÄúWe know we can do it and we want to put some doubt in their minds that they can‚Äôt do it. Getting ahead is a big deal this weekend because you don‚Äôt have time to mess around and lose a couple of games.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúWe 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‚Äôs not what we‚Äôre here to do ‚Äî we‚Äôre here to win it,‚Äù the 5-8 sophomore said. ‚ÄúSo we came out aggressive and attacked the ball more the next two games. It definitely lit a little fire.‚Äù
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‚Äôs reason to believe from within that the Bulldogs can still do more.
‚ÄúOur team is in a great spot right now and I still believe we haven‚Äôt played our best game yet and that‚Äôs an exciting way to feel,‚Äù said Glasco. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre ready to play ‚Äî we‚Äôre tired of watching them on film and we want to get out there and play them ‚Ä¶ We‚Äôre definitely peaking at the right time. We‚Äôre not completely to the peak yet, but we‚Äôre playing good ball. We have to keep doing our thing and getting the little things done.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúI want to go so bad,‚Äù said Wilson. ‚ÄúWhen 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 ‚Äì that‚Äôs what I want to feel.‚Äù
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre real excited,‚Äù added Wilkinson. ‚ÄúThe World Series is something you watch growing up when you‚Äôre a little girl. It‚Äôs something we all want to do, so we‚Äôre ready to fight.‚Äù