Georgia pitcher Mary Wilson Avant pitched back-to-back shutouts in the Gainesville Regional against Florida.
Tim Casey/UF

Georgia star Mary Wilson Avant moving on, softball faces major change

ATHENS — Georgia star Mary Wilson Avant left the circle for the final time last Saturday, the dugout at Hall of Fame Stadium a temporary stop on the way to the rest of her life.

Avant, with her Master of Marketing Research degree in hand, starts her new job in Manhattan, N.Y., next month, leaving behind a softball legacy that will likely not soon be matched.

It was Avant, the former prep star from Stratford Academy in her hometown of Macon, who shut out No. 4 Florida in back-to-back Super Regional games in Gainesville to launch UGA to its third Women’s College World Series appearance in the past five tourneys.

Georgia pitcher Mary Wilson Avant pitched back-to-back shutouts against No. 4 Florida in Gainesville to get UGA to the Women's College World Series.
Tim Casey/UF, Dawgnation

“I just wanted to go in there and have fun and put everything on the line, and I feel like I did that,” Avant, who pitched in all eight postseason games, said during the Ingles On The Beat Show on Monday night.

The Gators, it’s worth noting, had not been shut out in consecutive games since the 2012 season.

“You can’t say enough about Mary and what she did for our team this year,” Coach Lu Harris-Champer said after the team’s exit from Oklahoma City. “The way she really put us on her back and went to work.”

Georgia softball now looks squarely into the future with first-year athlete director Josh Brooks conducting a national search for a new head coach after Harris-Champer announced she was stepping down on Sunday.

Tony Baldwin, who joined the UGA staff as a volunteer assistant in 2011-12, before redoing Champer as a full-time assistant in 2021, has been appointed the interim head coach and is a serious candidate for the job.

One veteran SEC coach said he felt Baldwin was in a “head coach-in-waiting” sort of role earlier this season, and Avant endorsed his potential as leader of the program.

“Coach Tony would make absolutely an amazing head coach,” Avant said. “He invests so much into the players, on and off the field, and he’s just a great human in general.”

All of the Bulldogs starting position players are eligible to return, leaving the biggest question mark in the pitching circle.

Harris-Champer said vaguely in a Saturday Zoom call that “pitching will come along.”

But, she added, “the future looks really bright, so many youngsters out there.”

Georgia started four freshmen at the WCWS.

“They have grown so much,” Harris-Champer said. “Again, I can’t say enough about the chemistry and the trust of each other and the want-to, with and for each other and I think that is the strength of the team moving forward.”

After the Bulldogs’ win against Florida on Saturday, May 29, 2021 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey
Tim Casey, Dawgnation

Lacy Fincher put the scene of a new team reloading in the wake of a star player’s exit into perspective

“I think that this team has great potential in the future and we just have to keep our heads high and keep looking forward,” Fincher said on the postgame Zoom call Saturday.

“I’ll give another shout-out to Mary Wilson …. She pitched a great game and she just is a great person in general. She’s going to do so many good things in life, and I’m proud of her, and I’m proud to be her friend. And I just can’t wait to see where life takes her.”