The 14th-ranked Georgia softball team defeated #25 Drake in eight innings Friday evening to advance in the NCAA Minneapolis Regional, 6-4.
Ciara Bryan delivered the winning two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of eighth to secure the victory for the Bulldogs (41-17).
Bryan was one of two Georgia hitters with two hits, the other being Justice Milz. In all, Georgia scattered seven hits and hit three home runs, one each from Bryan and Milz, the other from Alyssa DiCarlo.
In the circle, Kylie Bass pitched four innings in her start, allowing four runs on four hits. Mary Wilson Avant (10-4) earned the win in relief, working four shutout innings, allowing only a single hit.
Drake (42-15) touched home in the first inning. With bases loaded and one out, Savana Sikes picked up a ground ball, stepped on third for out number two, and on the throw home, the throw hit the runner, allowing Drake to score and take a 1-0 lead.
Lacey Fincher led off the bottom of the second with a triple off the top of the wall in left center. Fincher touched home on a single that fell in shallow left center off the bat of Milz, tying the game at a run apiece, 1-1, after two.
Bryan reached on an infield base hit with one out in the bottom of the third. DiCarlo followed with home run number 22 of the season, a two-run shot, to put the Bulldogs ahead, 3-1. The home run was also number 67 of her career, tying her with Auburn’s Kasey Copper (2014-17) for second all-time in the Southeastern Conference.
A pair of hit batsmen and a single to lead off the fourth inning led to a three-run inning for Drake. With bases loaded, a sacrifice fly to left cut Georgia’s lead to one, 3-2. A two-out, two-run single poked back up the middle by Libby Ryan put Drake back in front, 4-3 in the top of the fourth.
Down to Georgia’s final two outs, Milz sent her seventh home run of the season out of the park in a hurry to tie the game at 4-4 and force extra innings.
It was Georgia’s fourth extra-inning game in the last nine games.
Jordan Doggett lined a leadoff base hit into left to begin the eighth inning. Bryan then stepped in and hit a home run to centerfield, locking up the win for Georgia, 6-4.
Georgia will return to action Saturday at 4 p.m., ET, from Minneapolis. Georgia will face the winner of Friday’s game between #7 Minnesota and North Dakota State.
Head Coach Lu Harris-Champer
“It was a really exciting game. I have to give a lot of props to Drake, they played great. The way they are able to manufacture runs is really impressive. Their pitcher [Nicole] Newman is just outstanding; she had nine strikeouts against us. I’m really proud of our offense for battling and just continuing to stay calm, find the ball and really be productive as well. I’m also proud of Mary [Wilson Avant] and coming in and shutting it down when we needed her to.”
On what the team did to keep fighting despite being down…
“We play in a tough conference and when we’re down here and there, it’s part of the game. So you just have to continue to keep fighting. [Our team] had a little pow wow the inning before that to try and get it together, and they really did. Again, when you’re facing a team that good, you have to just stay calm and stay present and enjoy the opportunity to keep playing.”