Know Your (Potential) WCWS Opponent - #6 Georgia

We are going to do the best we can here at RMN to preview all the possible opponents for the softball team this week and weekend.  We will start off by previewing one of two teams who the Tigers might play...but might not.  We will hit #3 UW tomorrow before finishing with the only team we know Mizzou WILL play in #10 Arizona State.  In the meantime, let's get the ball rolling by taking a look at the #6 seed Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC

Season:

Overall, UGA finished the regular season at 39-10 with a 16-7 record in the SEC conference, which was good enough for third place overall (behind Florida in their own division and Alabama in the other).  They went 25-2 at home (plus 2 more wins in the NCAA's), 10-5 on the road and 7-3 at neutral sites.  Their RPI is 5th per Warren Nolan RPI .(which has been updated to include all the action of the tournament it appears)  They run-ruled 18 opponents on the season, were run-ruled twice themselves and played in three extra-inning games, going 1-2.

Common Opponents:

  • Baylor - UGA swept (winning 6-2 in 9 innings and 4-3), Mizzou swept (2-1, 7-1 and 1-0)
  • Arkansas - UGA swept (8-0 in 5 innings and 8-2 in rain-shortened 5 innings), Mizzou won 8-0 in 6 innings
  • North Carolina - UGA swept (6-0 and 4-2), Mizzou swept (9-6 and 8-0 in 5 innings)

UGA in the Tournament Thus Far:

The Bulldogs have yet to drop a game, but have not been terribly dominant at the same time.  Strapped with having to play a road regional in Chapel Hill, UGA did dispatch Radford 3-1 before taking both games from UNC for the Regional title.  This moved them to a matchup with Ohio State, but back home in Athens where they are just about unbeatable.  The Buckeyes would get out early on UGA in BOTH games, leading 4-0 after 5 in the first and 6-1 after 3 in the second.  However, UGA would rally in both, closing out 6-4 and 7-6 wins for the Super Regional title.  Neither starter in the Super Regional made it out of the first inning.

Non-Conference:

UGA started the season ranked 22nd and never looked back.  At one point, they run-ruled 12 straight out of conference opponents, finishing with #31 RPI Baylor.  They had early season losses to #65 RPI Oregon State and #3 Washington, though they would turn right around and beat Washington 2-0.  They had an entire tournament rained out which would have featured games against #23 UMASS, #18 Depaul and eventual opponent #14 Ohio State.  They also had a very good, late season win against #12 Georgia Tech (formally coached by Ehren Earleywine).  All in all, a pretty solid schedule and record of 21-2

SEC Action:

All you really have to know about the SEC is that UGA was third in the conference in RPI behind #1 Florida and #2 Alabama, but still fifth in the nation.  Tough draw to start for the Bulldogs, as they opened with #1 Floriday on the road, losing both and getting run-ruled in the first 15-0.  They would recover, winning seven conference games in a row before getting Alabama on the road for three, all of which they lost.  They would also have losses against #48 Miss. State and #16 Tenn, before finishing the season at 18-7 in conference.  #20 RPI Kentucky would upset them in the first game of the SEC Tournament 2-0.

Offense:

The most comprehensive thing I can say about 3B Alison Goler (soph) is that she is THE TRUTH.  On the season (54 games), she hit .464 with 71 hits, 17 doubles, 23 HR's, 79 RBI's with 31 BB's and FOUR K's.  She was hit three times, and struck out four times.  Her slugging was 1.026 and her OBP was .553.  She led in most categories here, though not in OBP, which was led by CF Taylor Schlopy (soph), who was at .574 with a batting average of .431 with 20 SB's out of the leadoff hole.  She also had 13 HR's, showing a pretty amazing complete game.  LF Megan Wiggins (soph) can also be counted on at the plate out of the clean-up slot, hitting .330 with 10 HR's.  UGA boasted seven starters with a batting average of over .300.  Oh yeah...UGA has two seniors (SS Kristin Schnake (who hits .333) and P Christie Hamilton (more on her later), and that is it.  Everyone else is either a freshman or sophomore.  Not a single junior on the squad.

On the whole, UGA hit .327 (.196 opposition) with 78 HR's (28 opposition), slugging of .587 (.298 opposition) and OBP of .419 (.297 opposition).  They stole 76 bases (20 opposition) on 86 chances.  Their offensive numbers are slightly ahead of where UCLA was as a comparison.

Defense:

UGA was even better than UCLA in the field this season, only committing 28 errors for a fielding percentage of .980.  They only gave up four unearned runs for the year. 3B Alison Goler  was the weak link (if you can call her that) in the field with eight errors.  2B Ashley Pauley (frosh) committed six errors.

Pitching:

UGA really relies on two pitchers, but which one will start (especially considering their respective starts in the Super Regional) is anyone's guess.  The ace would appear to be Christine Hamilton (senior), who went 24-8 on the season with a 1.65 ERA over 187 innings in 29 starts  She struck out 149 (55 walks) and batters only hit .176 against her, though with 16 HR's.  If it is not her, then look for Sarah McCloud (soph) who went 17-2 with a 2.62 ERA over 128.1 innings in 27 starts.  She only struck out 58, while walking an alarmingly high 78, and batters hit .218 against her.

On the whole, UGA had a team ERA of 2.14 (6.34 opposition) with TWENTY shutouts on the season (5 opposition).  They struck out 231 total batters (215 opposition) and walked 150 (177 opposition).

Fun Fact:

This surprised me, but UGA softball is only in its 12th season of existence, having started in 1997.  This is their first WCWS appearance, as UCLA has kept them out both of the times they made it to a Super Regional  (2005 and 2008)

Overall Thoughts:

At this point in the season, and against pretty much anyone except perhaps Florida and Alabama, I can sit here and tell you Mizzou could win a single game against the opponent.  UGA is certainly battle tested, but they do have some interesting weak spots.  Starting pitching had been solid, but nerves and wildness seem to affect both pitchers.  On offense, wow is all I can say, but the Tigers kept a HUGE hitting UCLA squad off the boards for the most part and held them to only seven runs in three games.  This is uncharted territory for UGA, and this team is ridiculously young.  However, the heart they showed against OSU this past weekend was impressive to say the least.

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