ATHENS – Another season, another NCAA Tournament run.
Those seem to go in hand for Georgia softball. The Bulldogs (42-13) are making their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance this year and now have advanced to the Super Regional round for the 12th time.
The next hurdle is a high one. Georgia faces No. 3 Florida State (53-9) in a best-of-three series in Tallahassee with the winner advancing to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
“It’s a tough place to play,” said second-year coach Tony Baldwin. “It’s going to be about 7000% humidity and we’ll probably get some rain, because that’s what happens down there this time of year. That doesn’t count their players and coaches, which is quite a challenge.”
All true, but Georgia will be bringing south a pretty good squad of its own. It may be the best offensive team the Bulldogs have ever fielded. They lead the SEC in five offensive categories and are top three nationally in home runs (91), RBI (323) and team batting average (.322).
Jayda Kearney (.377, 19 home runs) and Sara Moseley (.360, 17 HRs) are certified sluggers. But it was No. 9 hitter Sydney Chambley who lit up the competition as the Bulldogs rolled through the NCAA Athens Regional. The 5-foot-6 outfielder hit four homers – including a grand slam -- and drove in 13 runs while going 7-for-9 (.778) at the plate for the weekend. Accordingly, Georgia outscored the Virginia Tech and N.C. Central 32-6 over the three games.
FSU will counter with one of the best pitching staffs in college baseball. Fifth-year senior Kathryn “Kat” Sandercock is the ACC pitcher of the year and showed why when she threw a perfect game in a winner-take-all clash with South Carolina this past Sunday. Sandercock needed just 59 pitches to dispatch the Gamecocks in a 1-0 clincher.
But the Bulldogs have some pitching as well. They’re led by All-SEC graduate Shelby Waters (18-5, 1.45 ERA) and can go to second-team hurler Madison Kerpics (19-6, 2.40) at a moment’s notice.
“They’re an amazing team; we’re a great team as well,” said Kearney, a junior from New Jersey. “It’s going to be a battle and we’re excited to go fight.”
The Seminoles have been somewhat of a nemesis for Georgia. It has played FSU nine times in the NCAA Tournament, more than any other opponent, and is 4-5 in those games. The ‘Noles eliminated the Bulldogs from the 2018 WCWS and the 2017 NCAA tournament. FSU leads the overall series 9-8.
“We haven’t been able to come up with enough offense to end up on top,” said Baldwin, who was part of all those matchups as Georgia’s associate head coach. “But this time of the year you’ve got to be good at all parts of the game to advance. Shortcomings are going to get exposed.”
Georgia actually has an impressive resume when it comes to postseason play. The Bulldogs are 80-43 all time with 21 regional appearances, 12 supers and five WCWS berths.
It’s the second time around for most of this year’s squad.
“I am stoked,” said Chambley, a junior from Dallas, Ga. “I love the postseason. Softball’s great. but the postseason is always special because there’s no school, so you get to focus on hanging out with the teammates and just playing softball. … It’s an honor to represent Georgia. You dream of these moments.”
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