Georgia Head Coach Lu Harris-Champer, shown here during the Bulldogs’ game against Florida on Saturday, May 29, 2021 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL., announced her retirement on Sunday. / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey
Tim Casey

Georgia softball coach Lu Harris-Champer retires after 5th WCWS appearance

ATHENS — Georgia softball coach Lu Harris-Champer has announced her retirement on the heels of the Bulldogs’ fifth trip to the Women’s College World Series and her 21st year leading the program.

Associate Head Coach Tony Baldwin will serve as interim head coach, with a national search set to begin immediately.

Georgia finished 11th in the SEC standings, entering the postseason on a seven-game losing streak before its surprising run to the College World Series.

UGA hosted and won a four-team NCAA regional in Athens and then beat No. 4 national seed Florida in Gainesville on the strength of Mary Wilson Avant’s back-to-back shutouts to advance to Oklahoma City.

The Bulldogs (34-23) lost to Oklahoma State on Thursday by a 3-2 count and then were eliminated on Saturday by No. 1-ranked Oklahoma in an 8-0 game.

RELATED: Georgia drops heartbreaker to Oklahoma State in WCWS opener

RELATED: Sooners run-rule Bulldogs in WCWS elimination game

Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer, shown here during the Bulldogs’ game against Oklahoma State at the 2021 NCAA Women’s College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, June 3, 2021, has retired. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh / , Dawgnation

The announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise, as Harris-Champer had expressed great optimism about next season in a Saturday Zoom press conference.

All of Georgia’s starting position players are eligible to return.

On Sunday, UGA issued a press release on the coach’s retirement with quotes from Harris-Champer as well as first-year athletic director Josh Brooks.

“A decision like this is always difficult, particularly when you work at a wonderful institution like the University of Georgia,” Harris-Champer said in a school release on Sunday.

“I am beyond grateful for my time here in Athens. I was truly blessed to work with tremendous colleagues and coach amazing student-athletes that mean so much to me. This decision came down to family. It was the right time for me to step away from the team and institution I love, while still being lucky enough to have more time with my children before they graduate high school.

“I am thankful to Coach Dooley for giving me this opportunity and to Greg McGarity and the entire UGAAA family for all of their support on and off the field. I will always be proud of my time here.”

New Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks, who submitted the competitive bid that enabled UGA to host the Athens Regional, had the following statement:

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Lu for the entirely of her tenure at UGA and I have worked directly with softball for the last 10 years,” Deputy Athletic Director for Finance Stephanie Ransom said in the release.

“Her competitive spirit and tenacity shine through in all she does, and her teams reflect that by playing with toughness and grit. She leads by example with tremendous work ethic and attention to detail, while always insisting on excellence. She will be greatly missed on and off the field.”