ATHENS — Georgia pitcher Shelby Walters threw her glove and screamed with joy after recording the final out of the Bulldogs’ regional title win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.

It was a celebration a long time coming for the Cohutta, Ga., product and Duke graduate transfer, who will next help lead No. 14-seeded Georgia into No. 3-seed Florida State in a three-game Super Regional beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday (TV: ESPN 2)

Walters ranked among the most coveted players in the nation in the portal last offseason, as well as back when she was coming out of high school in 2018 as one of the most accomplished travel ball players in the Southeast.

“Georgia has always had a special place in my heart, my dad was a big Georgia fan, so entering the transfer portal I had an idea of somewhere I wanted to go,” Walters said after shutting down the Hokies in a 12-3 win on Sunday.

“I wanted to be relatively close to home, family is important to me … and another thing was being a part of the team that Coach Tony (Baldwin) was talking about, that embodies what I’m looking for, and what I hold myself to,” he said, “and so this team has been such a blessing to me to welcome me, and not only to push me to be better, but also accept me for who I am.”

Georgia fans know better than anyone how important team dynamics and locker room chemistry are to building championship programs, having seen Kirby Smart emphasize that platform in building a back-to-back championship football program.”

Baldwin, like Smart, ensures that the clubhouse is in order before the team takes the field — something that’s always a given when bringing in players from outside program.

Baldwin shared how he knew Walters would be just the right fit for his program when he saw her pitch two years ago.

“I remember when Duke was here in 2021, and they had an elimination game against Western Kentucky,” Baldwin said. “I recall the game went 14 innings and Shelby pitched all of them and embodied what being a competitor is all about.

“When the person in the circle embodies competitiveness, the people around you want to be their most competitive self, so this is what we had in mind.”

Walters could be the staff ace most anywhere, but at Georgia, she shares that role with junior Madison Kerpics in giving the Bulldogs the necessary pitching depth to go with their SEC-leading hitting.

“What has been a blessing to our team, is one, how her personality has meshed so well with our team and in our locker, and how our locker room has embraced Shelby,” Baldwin said. “And (two), the relationship Maddy and Shelby have built and how they have worked together. You could hope that’s how it goes, but to see it unfold is special.”

Kerpics, who is expected to start Thursday, explained how Walters’ presence has made a difference for her.

“It’s really nice, the stress load this year is such a difference,” Kerpics said. “I feel good out there even when I come out. When I don’t have my ‘A’ game, Shelby will have my back.

“Last year there was more pressure. It’s like if I’m not perfect, I felt I let the team down. It’s been nice having her this year.”