Jaiden Fields makes ‘name for myself’ by propelling Georgia softball to WCWS

Georgia outfielder Jaiden Fields (3) during a game against Oklahoma at Jack Turner Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Photo by Rob Davis/UGA)
Georgia outfielder Jaiden Fields (3) during a game against Oklahoma at Jack Turner Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Photo by Rob Davis/UGA)

Credit: Rob Davis

Credit: Rob Davis

Jaiden Fields got the starting nod as the postseason progressed for Georgia softball. She used it as a proving ground.

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The last name might sound familiar to any observer of Georgia athletics, especially the football program. It’s the same bloodline as Georgia-turned-Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who eventually heard his name as the 11th overall NFL draftee by the Chicago Bears in April. Frankly, Jaiden gets it. She understands that’s what she’s known as — Justin’s sister — and has never been bothered by it.

She’s proud to stand by her brother, but Jaiden remained in a Georgia uniform and is in her third season wearing jersey No. 3 on the Bulldogs’ softball team. The perception changed when Jaiden hit home runs in consecutive games to propel Georgia to its fifth Women’s College World Series berth in school history.

“I’ve been seeing, ‘That’s Jaiden Fields’ brother, not Justin Fields’ sister,’” Jaiden said Tuesday before Georgia heads to Oklahoma City. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, you know.’ Making a name for myself is nice.”

Fields, after being benched for nine games through Georgia’s end-of-season stretch that included 13 losses in 15 games, came through. She wrote her own chapter in the athletic family’s lore as she hit commanding long balls in consecutive games as Georgia topped arch-rival and fourth-seeded Florida in shutout victories Friday and Saturday to sweep its way through the Super Regionals in Gainesville.

In her moment, Fields turned into the hero and — along with the pitching exploits of Mary Wilson Avant — led Georgia on an unexpected, miracle run for a team that had 21 defeats and entered postseason play as an unseeded regional host. The Bulldogs continue their run toward championship aspirations against No. 5-seed Oklahoma State on Thursday (2 p.m., ESPN).

“Jaiden was doing Jaiden. She’s one of my favorite people to watch when she comes up to the plate. She’s so calm and collected,” freshman Sydney Chambley said. “To see her succeed and do what I know she’s capable of, it’s more exciting. We know she can do this.”

“Jaiden is a resilient player,” Avant said. “I had a good feeling she would come in and do her job when it mattered most. She certainly did.”

Oddly enough, the narrative of the Fields siblings’ rise to their prevalent moment played out in similar fashion. The quarterback led Ohio State to contention after a season as Georgia’s backup quarterback and is a former five-star prospect out of Harrison High. The softball player, also coveted out of high school, waited for her turn as a Bulldog. Even in the 2021 season, in which Fields has been a significant piece since the season began in early February, according to coach Lu Harris-Champer, Georgia made a change in right field.

The Bulldogs opted to sit Fields for senior Mackenzie Puckett after a 13-3 loss to Alabama on May 1. Harris-Champer said her players earn their playing time in practice, and Chambley added that a starting spot is never guaranteed.

“Nobody ever wants to be taken out of the lineup,” said Fields, who wasn’t reinserted into the lineup until the series opener Friday at Florida. “It’s for the team and whatever’s going to work best for the team. I was all for however that situation was going to be. It’s about trusting the process and what these coaches had in store for me.”

Fields, having to prove her place as a starter for Georgia softball, did so behind the scenes. She observed from the dugout on game days, but gave maximum effort in practices and became outspoken in meetings. Georgia’s move paid off after Puckett went 2-for-10 during the span that Fields served as a reserve.

Fields now holds the second-highest batting average on the team, at .308, behind Lacey Fincher’s .338 clip.

“Jaiden is a fierce competitor from the get-go,” Harris-Champer said. “She had been training very well and earned the opportunity to get back into the game. I’m really proud of her because she has had a great mindset and is very selfless. She gets her chance, and she does an outstanding job for us.”

Fields had the simple approach on each of her home runs. She wanted to get a base hit and be the catalyst for an offensive rally. Over a month had passed since she hit her last long ball March 20 vs. Missouri, and it became a statement when her base hit soared over the fence against the Gators.

Fields made it known. She’s her “own athlete” and the latest in the family to have a shining moment. Most of the family will make the trip to Oklahoma City, minus her younger sister, Jessica, to pull for Georgia and give No. 3 some bragging rights over her brother.

That can come with a championship trophy. Nonetheless, Jaiden Fields cemented the significance of her own name in the Georgia red.

“I don’t want to make it bigger than it is. I’ve done this (softball) for 12 years,” Fields said. “I have to trust what I’ve done.

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