At 2 It was a season that went beyond stats, as the heart and fight of the 2016 Georgia Bulldogs led to a special season on the field, culminating in a trip to the program’s third Women’s College World Series.
UGA Softball wrapped up their 46-20, 12-12 season with a No. 7 ranking in the final national polls, marking the sixth time that Georgia finished in the top 10 at the year’s end and best finish since being top four after WCWS runs in 2009 and 2010.
A huge part of Georgia’s success came from its six seniors: Katie Browne, Alex Hugo, Tina Iosefa, Samantha LaZear, Kaylee Puailoa and Chelsea Wilkinson. Falling two games short of Oklahoma City twice in their careers, this veteran group stepped up when called, guiding Georgia past Maine, Northwestern and Oklahoma State in the Athens Regional before a magical pair of games at No. 1 Florida in its Super Regional.
Sydni and Cortni Emanuel returned and continued their consistent play at the plate, holding the team’s best averages that were also top six among league players while combining for 47 stolen bases. The Bulldogs also relied heavily on its freshmen, but Alyssa DiCarlo and Lacey Sumerlin anchored the left side of the infield, earning SEC All-Freshman honors in the process.
POSTSEASON SUCCESS CONTINUES WITH 15TH-STRAIGHT NCAA APPEARANCE
Earning the No. 16 national seed, Georgia made its 15th-consecutive NCAA Championship appearance, one of 11 teams nationally to do so and just one of three SEC teams. After winning the Athens Regional, Georgia moved on to the Gainesville Super Regional, knocking off No. 1 Florida after a shutout in game one and a pinch-hit, two-strike, two-out, walkoff home run from Kaylee Puailoa in game two. It was the ninth Super Regional appearance in the program’s history, as Georgia is one of seven teams to have at least nine appearances since 2005.
GEORGIA SWEEPS DEFENDING CHAMPS ON WAY TO WCWS
After not meeting in the regular season, Georgia went to Gainesville and defeated the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators, sweeping the back-to-back defending champions with a shutout in game one and a walkoff home run in the finale. It was the first time that a No. 1 seed was swept in Super Regional play while the second time since 2005 that a No. 1 team was eliminated before the WCWS.
The pair of wins handed the Gators their first back-to-back losses since March 2015 against LSU. It was also the first time since February 2011 that Georgia defeated a No. 1 ranked team, as the last one was a five-inning 8-0 victory over Arizona.
MULTIPLE BULLDOGS EARN AWARDS
Coaches around the SEC and nation recognized multiple Bulldogs for their on-field efforts this season:
First Team: Alyssa DiCarlo, Sydni Emanuel
Second Team: Alex Hugo, Tina Iosefa, Chelsea Wilkinson
Freshman: Alyssa DiCarlo, Lacey Sumerlin
The seven players honored tied the most among the SEC schools, as regular-season champion Florida also had seven players named to postseason awards. It is the most selections to the All-SEC teams in program history, topping the six selected in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
Second Team: Sydni Emanuel, Cortni Emanuel
Third Team: Tina Iosefa, Chelsea Wilkinson
Georgia now holds 58 NFCA All-Region selections in program history, including 57 under 16-year head coach Lu Harris-Champer. In all, 28 Bulldogs have garnered the award.
Third Team: Tina Iosefa
Iosefa becomes Georgia’s 25th All-America selection since 2002 and the 16th Bulldog to earn the honor.
IOSEFA TOPS GOLER AS RBI LEADER
The nation’s leader with 23 home runs and 87 RBI, Tina Iosefa became the SEC and program’s single-season RBI leader, passing Alisa Goler’s 83 set in 2009. Boosting those numbers for the infielder were her four grand slams, coming against LIU Brooklyn, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Alabama. Iosefa is now the single-season leader for grand slams in Georgia history while second in the NCAA ranking.
CORTNI SETS NEW HIT STREAK RECORD
Cortni Emanuel set a new school record with her 23-game hit streak. The sophomore surpassed All-American Megan Wiggins’ 22-game streak she set in 2010. During the streak, C. Emanuel hit .542 with 45 hits, including two doubles and two triples, while tabbing 29 runs. An All-Region and All-SEC selection, the Texas native was also named a top 25 finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award.
WILKINSON CLOSES OUT STELLAR CAREER
A four-time All-SEC honoree, Chelsea Wilkinson closed her time as a Bulldog as second in all-time wins with 97 and career strikeouts with 897. After leading the SEC with 28 wins in 2016, she is in the top single-season win list for each of the past thee seasons. Maybe saving one of her best performances toward the end of 2016, Wilkinson pitched all 14 innings at No. 1 Florida, holding the Gators to a .167 average and two runs scored. The senior gave up eight hits and just one extra-base hit with a double in game one.
NO FRESHMAN JITTERS FOR DICARLO
It didn’t take Alyssa DiCarlo long to look like a collegiate veteran. The Arizona native started in every game at third base in her first year as a Bulldog, becoming second on the team with 11 home runs, including a league-best nine in conference action. DiCarlo’s 63 RBI on the year was also 15th best in the nation while the top number among all freshmen.