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Softball: 'Playing with chemistry'
After the Bulldogs’ win against Florida on Saturday, May 29, 2021, at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL / UAA Communications photo by Leslie White
Georgia softball took flight earlier this week for Oklahoma City to play in the program’s fifth Women’s College World Series appearance.
The Bulldogs (34-21) swept No. 4-seeded Florida last weekend in the Gainesville Super Regional in consecutive shutouts. The previous weekend, Georgia hosted the Athens Regional and defeated No. 13-ranked Duke 1-0 and 10-9 in the championship round.
On Thursday, June 3, the Bulldogs will face No. 5-seeded Oklahoma State (47-10) in the opening round of the WCWS at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
Georgia head coach Lu-Harris Champer knows her team has been playing as the underdog for most of the postseason, but she likes the way the players have responded against adversity.
"The fact that the chemistry has been strong all the way through I think is why we're sitting here today," Harris-Champer told John Frierson of GeorgiaDogs.com earlier this week.
Graduate pitcher Mary Wilson Avant has been an important piece for the Bulldogs during this postseason run, especially against Florida last weekend when she pitched two consecutive shutouts.
"We're just playing with a lot of joy," Avant said. "When you're going through a tough stretch or you're having bad losses and stuff like that, it's easy to stray away from playing with joy, and that's why we all started the game in the first place when we were younger."
Georgia didn’t seem to have much joy to end the season as it lost 11 of 14 regular-season games. Then, a bad loss to No. 6 Kentucky in the opening round of the SEC Tournament didn’t help the team’s momentum moving towards the post-season. Since that loss to the Wildcats, the Bulldogs have rattled off five straight victories to put them in the position they are in currently.
Bulldogs junior third basemen Hannah Sikes emphasized that practices have been different over the last couple of weeks.
"It's awesome to be one of the eight teams that's still practicing,” Sikes said. “We've had some great practice days ever since the SEC tournament, and we had a great practice today, and we're just ready to get after it.”
Despite being one of the final eight teams, Georgia will be the underdog against Oklahoma State. The winner of Thursday’s matchup will face the winner of No. 1-seeded Oklahoma and James Madison in the next round. The Sooners (50-2) and the Bulldogs have already met earlier this season, with both teams splitting the two-game series. So, if UGA does beat Oklahoma State, it will again be behind the 8-ball.
Avant said that the Bulldogs are “very dangerous at the point we’re at right now.”
“We're playing with so much joy that we're able to do what we want to do and attack the way we want to attack,” she added after the Saturday win over Florida. “As long as we keep playing with that joy and competitiveness, we can go really far."
The Bulldogs entered finished the regular season limping in the NCAA Tournament, but now, it seems like they have found a resurgence in the past couple of weeks.
Harris-Champer, who has led the program to all five WCWS apperances, said it’s been a whirlwind of a season, especially due to the strength of schedule and uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They've really just grown to become the team that they are," she said. "We're not done yet, but I'm just really proud of the fact that the team stuck together through everything, through the roller-coaster ride of a tough schedule."