It’s Georgia-Florida again in NCAA softball super regionals

The Georgia Bulldogs had much to celebrate following a 10-9 win over Duke last Sunday, which punched their ticket to the NCAA Super Regionals. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)
The Georgia Bulldogs had much to celebrate following a 10-9 win over Duke last Sunday, which punched their ticket to the NCAA Super Regionals. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS -- Can Georgia softball do it again?

The last time coach Lu Harris-Champer took her Bulldogs to Gainesville, Fla., to face the mighty Florida Gators in an NCAA Super Regional, they left for an all-expenses-paid trip to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series.

That was five years ago. But bring it up to Harris-Champer today, and the Bulldogs’ notoriously stoic interviewee lights up like a Christmas tree.

“The most memorable thing for me is it was Kaylee Pauiloa that hit the bomb,” Harris-Champer said this week. “Kaylee had been a starter for us, and that year she moved into the role of pinch hitter. She worked hard and worked hard and was very positive about and accepted her role. Then she had the opportunity with two strikes to do something big, and she was able to do it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

It was definitely unforgettable, a two-run homer with two strikes and two outs in the seventh inning to lead Georgia to a 3-2 win over No. 1-ranked Florida in an epic upset. The 45-win Bulldogs advanced to the CWS and the season ended for the 46-win Gators.

Five years later, and even more there’s a similar backdrop as Georgia meets Florida in a best-of-three super regional again. And this time the Bulldogs (32-21, 7-17 SEC) will be even bigger underdogs to No. 4-seeded Gators (45-9, 19-5).

Georgia already had to pull off a bit of an upset. The Bulldogs knocked off 13th-seeded Duke 10-9 on Sunday to win the NCAA Athens Regional. That Georgia was tabbed as regional host was the biggest shock, then they outlasted the Blue Devils in a game that was decided on freshman Sydney Chambley’s sixth-inning RBI hit.

They’re starting to feel like something special could be afoot this season as well.

“We’re just going to go back to having fun playing softball,” Chambley said of facing the Gators, who won two of three in Athens earlier this season. “It’s Georgia softball, and I think it’s awesome that we get to have a rivalry in the super regionals. The first one didn’t go our way, but we’re really excited, really pumped, and I think we’re going to have a chip on our shoulder.”

The teams will square off at 5 p.m. Friday (ESPNU) and play again at noon Saturday (ESPN). If needed, a deciding third game will be played at noon Sunday.

Friday’s game will be the 71st between the two teams. The Gators lead the series 42-28.

“It feels like a conference series,” Harris-Champer said. “I know there’s more on the line, but this is what we do throughout the year. We have a great rivalry with Florida, so it’s a game we always look forward to playing.”

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