UGA softball’s annual Red and Black Showcase begins today at 3:00 p.m. ET marking the beginning of the Bulldogs’ 2017 season.
Coming off an exciting NCAA postseason run that ended in the program’s third Women’s College World Series trip, the Georgia softball team has no shortage of momentum heading into the 2017 season.
Georgia looks to get things started off this weekend with a doubleheader today, beginning at 3 p.m. ET this afternoon against Winthrop followed right after with a contest against Syracuse. Saturday will get underway at 12:30 p.m. ET with another doubleheader versus Syracuse and East Carolina before the tournament concludes on Sunday with East Carolina at 1 p.m. ET.
Georgia’s games will be featured on SEC Network+/WatchESPN while GameTracker is available for all games with links on georgiadogs.com. Admission to all regular-season home games are free at Jack Turner Stadium while this weekend the first 1,000 fans will receive a free schedule magnet.
The Bulldogs bring back 11 letter winners from that squad, all looking for a return trip to Oklahoma City. In addition to that, the team adds 12 talented newcomers, all eager for a chance to carry on the Georgia winning tradition.
“We have a good mix,” said 17-year head coach Lu Harris-Champer. “They are really building that chemistry–seeing each other before things are going to happen and just knowing what to expect.”
In 2016, the Georgia bats led the SEC with a .342 batting average. The Bulldogs return key parts of that lineup, including top-of-the-order hitters Sydni Emanuel and Cortni Emanuel. The duo has consistently been the 1-2 punch to start the offense, as S. Emanuel tied for an SEC-best .441 clip last year. Younger sister Cortni was close behind at .404 while setting the school record with a 23-game hit streak.
The Emanuels’ consistency continues to balance well with the Bulldogs’ power, brought back in 2017 with sophomore Alyssa DiCarlo and senior Maeve McGuire. DiCarlo, S. Emanuel and C. Emanuel were each selected to the Preseason All-SEC, as DiCarlo was an All-SEC First Team honoree after year one. The Arizona native ranked 15th in the nation after collecting 63 RBI, a number that led all Division I freshmen last year. McGuire had her best year at the plate in 2016, posting 63 hits, coming through in crucial points during Georgia’s NCAA run.
In the circle, junior Brittany Gray brings the most experience, notching over 100 strikeouts to go with 11 wins and five saves last season. Kylie Bass also returns for her sophomore season after ranking in the top 10 of the SEC with a 1.25 ERA. Gray tossed a no-hitter in 2016 while Bass teamed up with former standout Chelsea Wilkinson for a perfect game.
What the veterans bring more than anything is experience and being able to build on last year’s success with the right tools.
“To those that are returning, they’ll know to embrace the journey that we are on,” Harris-Champer said. “It was an up-and-down season last year, and I think that’s just the beauty of being in the SEC–you play so many good teams day in and day out that any weekend it could be anybody’s day. You have to come out and play your game.
“The key is to stay character driven–to stay truthful, stay honest, stay connected and rely on each other versus scattering on each other. They did that last year–the trust was so high in that group that the chemistry was just out of this world. So I think the humbleness and chemistry of that team is carrying over into this year at this time.”
The Bulldogs have a tough road in 2017 to reach their goals, facing seven opponents ranked in the preseason top 25 polls, as Georgia itself is No. 10 in one and No. 12 in another.
However, a challenging schedule is nothing new for Georgia. The Bulldogs’ goals are nothing new either–still aiming for SEC titles and Oklahoma City. The 2017 season is just a new ride and a new journey in reaching those goals.
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