ATHENS — Georgia arrived in Oklahoma City an unseeded and unlikely participant in the 8-team field at the Women’s College World Series.
The Bulldogs (34-21), who closed the regular season at the SEC tourney on a seven-game losing streak, certainly aren’t apologizing for it.
“I think we saw what we could do in Gainesville, and we are confident right now,” said UGA graduate student Mary Wilson Avant, who became the first Bulldog in school history to pitch back-to-back shutouts in postseason play as Georgia shocked the softball world with 4-0 and 6-0 Super Regional wins over No. 4 Florida last week.
“We are playing with a lot of joy and competitiveness, and we’re ready to attack whoever is playing on the side of the ball.”
Georgia plays No. 5 national seed Oklahoma State (47-10) at 2:30 p.m. today (TV: ESPN) at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The last time an unseeded team made it to the WCWS was 2012.
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Two of the Cowgirls are former Georgia starters who transferred to the Stillwater campus some 64 miles from the site of today’s game, Jordan Doggett and Alysen Febrey.
Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said he’s not concerned with the formerUGA players’ emotions as they face their old team. He went so far as to remind one to embrace her time at Georgia.
“I talked to Alysen about three weeks back before we even knew we had a chance to play Georgia,” Gajewski said.
“She mentioned to me that she wished she could have played here (Oklahoma State) the whole time, and I said ‘No you don’t. Don’t even go there. That shaped you.’ "
Softball transfers have been more common than football and basketball, which only recently allowed for immediate eligibility.
But there’s still something to be said for the players who choose to compete to get on the field rather than transfer when things don’t go their way.
That has certainly been the case for Georgia outfielder Jaiden Fields, who in her first start in four weeks went 3-for-3 with a solo home run that staked UGA out to the lead in the Game One Super Regional in Gainesville last week.
Fields, who had been in and out of the lineup all season, hit another home run the next day to finish the Super Region 4-for-5 at the plate.
“No one ever wants to be taken out of the lineup,” said Fields, a redshirt sophomore, who is the younger sister of NFL first-round pick Justin Fields. “But then again, it’s for the team, and it’s whatever will work best for the team.”
And so here is Georgia, a team that could have easily given up on itself after dropping 13 of its 15 games before catching a break and getting assigned one of the 16 NCAA tourney regional sites.
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“Every team has their own personality, it’s like different chapters of a book,” said 21th-year coach Lu Harris-Champer, who has taken five UGA teams to the WCWS.
“What allows this team to be what they are is there’s so much trust in each other. They have held themselves to a standard of excellence.
“It’s been fun to see them handle adversity, get knocked down, and get back up.”
Indeed, it’s a Georgia team with no first-team or second-team All-SEC players, or players from the SEC’s All-Defensive Team, for that matter.
Freshman Sydney Chambley, who set the NCAA tourney tone with a walk-off grand slam in the Bulldogs’ opening regional win over Western Kentucky, provided insight into the mood in the dugout.
“You can never count us out, because we’re always a team that’s going to bounce back,” Chambley said. “I’m really proud to be a part of the fight we have.”
GeorgiaDogs.com Sports Info Did You Know
Georgia and Oklahoma State are the only two teams to defeat tourney top seed Oklahoma (50-2) this season.
The Bulldogs handed the Sooners their first loss of the season, 7-6 in nine innings in Athens on April 20.
The winner of today’s game between Georgia and Oklahoma State plays at 7:30 p.m on Friday against the winner of today’s noon game (ESPN) between No. 1-seed Oklahoma and unseeded James Madison. The losers of the games play at noon on Saturday.