Even with baseball struggling this year, there has been plenty to get out and enjoy during the Athens springtime. Bernie took in tennis, and we spent last weekend down South Milledge at the first-rate Jack Turner Stadium supporting the softball team in their NCAA regional.
The weekend mirrored last season’s Athens regional: Georgia won their opener but fell on the second day, forcing them to play again Saturday night and then win twice on Sunday. Saturday’s loss was a 2-1 14-inning pitcher’s duel against Western Kentucky – the longest game ever played at Georgia’s stadium. The Dawgs survived a nail-biter in Saturday’s elimination game against a powerful UNC team, and the magnificent Alex Hugo’s walk-off home run meant that Georgia would play on.
In order to advance, Georgia had to beat – twice – the pitcher that had stymied them for 14 innings on Saturday. They came out on the attack and built big leads in both games, cruising to a pair of mercy-rule wins by a combined 29-3 score.
Other than the outburst of offense on Sunday, the story of the weekend had to be Georgia pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson. Wilkinson pitched a combined 18 innings on Saturday and came off the bench to earn the win in the nightcap. Georgia’s quick start in the first game on Sunday meant that the Dawgs could rest their ace, but Wilkinson returned to pitch 5 more innings in the complete game shutout that won the regional. Through 23 innings and over 300 pitches, she allowed only four runs and set a career high in strikeouts on Saturday.
So the Dawgs move on to the Super Regionals. They’re up in Ann Arbor to face the #3 national seed Michigan. It will be a big job to advance to the WCWS in Oklahoma City, but this team has the ability to get it done. Games will be Thursday and Friday on the ESPN networks.