ATHENS — Fortunately for the Georgia softball team, the phrase “membership has its privileges” applies to his year’s NCAA tournament field.
Twelve of the 13 SEC teams made the NCAA tournament (Vanderbilt does not have a program), and seven of them are among the 16 regional host sites, including Georgia.
The Lady Bulldogs are having their worst season in 20 years and are not among the nation’s top 16 seeds. But the UGA facility and athletic department bid have led to Georgia being granted home field advantage in the postseason.
Duke, the No. 13 national seed, is the top-seeded team in the four-team, double-elimination Athens Regional, which begins on Friday at Jack Turner Stadium.
The Blue Devils play North Carolina-Greensboro at noon on the ACC Network followed by Georgia’s game with Western Kentucky at approximately 2:30 p.m.
The winner of the Athens Regional faces the winner of the regional being hosted by No. 4 national seed Florida in Gainesville in a best-of-three Super Regional.
The Lady Bulldogs (29-21) enter the NCAA tournament having lost seven games in a row and 10 of their last 11 under 20th-year coach Lu Harris-Champer.
The school record for consecutive losses is nine, set in 2001 in Harris-Champer’s first year as head coach. The only other UGA softball losing streak this long occurred in 2008 (8).
This season’s Georgia team reflects 10 seniors on the roster, including the Bulldogs’ top three pitchers.
The Lady Bulldogs did not have any players make first-team All-SEC, second-team All-SEC or the All-SEC Defensive Team.
Georgia ranks 172nd in the nation in team batting average (.260), 213th in the nation in fielding percentage (.954) and 118th in Team earned run average (3.35).
First-year UGA athletic director Josh Brooks took over the corner office at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in January saying he wants Georgia to compete for championships in every sport.
The Peach State produces a great deal of softball talent with some of the finest and highest-paid high school coaches in Southeast, along with an exceptionally strong travel ball circuit.
Brooks has said before any coaching changes are made the athletic program takes a long look in the mirror.
“Before you can truly evaluate any coach, you have to evaluate yourself internally as an administration, and make sure we’re doing everything in our power to help them be successful,” Brooks said.
In bidding for and landing a regional site, Brooks has certainly given his softball coach a chance to salvage a disappointing season.
Georgia has done just that before, making the 2016 and 2018 WCWS after getting eliminated in the first game of the SEC tournament in both of those seasons, as they were last week by Kentucky.
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The Bulldogs have won just one SEC Softball Tournament (2014) and two regular-season titles (2003, 2005) in the program’s 25-year history.
Seven of the Top 50 softball players in the 2021 Class (Per MaxPreps) are from the state of Georgia. Five of them signed with out-of-state schools. Florida, Alabama and Clemson signed the top three ranked players out of the state of Georgia this year.
The Lady Bulldogs currently have two of the Top 25-ranked players in the 2022 Class committed.