ATHENS — The ninth-ranked University of Georgia softball team (46-11) pounded out 13 hits to top Radford (38-17) 8-1 in the championship game of the NCAA Athens Regional on Sunday at the UGA Softball Stadium.
This marks the fourth time the Bulldogs have won their opening regional and Georgia’s third-straight trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Bulldogs beat North Carolina in last year’s regional title game to advance to the Super Regionals. Georgia then clinched its first trip to the College World Series by taking two straight from Ohio State.
The Bulldogs will now face the winner of the Columbus Regional in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Championships. The NCAA will announce the site for the Super Regional following the completion of all the regional games.
Bulldog junior Sarah McCloud equaled her season-high in strikeouts with seven, gave up seven hits and only allowed a single run with no walks for her 11th win.
McCloud (11-1), who started the game by striking out all three batters in the first, won all three of Georgia’s games in the regional. Sophomore Erin Arevalo closed out the game striking out two and allowing a pair of hits in the bottom of the seventh.
Junior Megan Wiggins led the Bulldogs’ scoring attack, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs while junior Brianna Hesson finished 2-for-4 with two RBI. Georgia broke the school record with six doubles in the game (previous record was five). Georgia’s win over Radford also marked the 20th time this season that Georgia has had 10 or more hits.
The Bulldogs wasted little time jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Wiggins drilled her first pitch over the right centerfield fence to give Georgia a 1-0 edge. She is now tied for fifth in school history with an 18-game hitting streak after stroking her 14th home run of the season.
Junior Alisa Goler (2-for-3) followed up Wiggins’ hit with a double to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Kristen Shifflett. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 2-0 when Hesson drove an RBI triple past the Highlanders’ center fielder.
Georgia added two more hits and another pair of runs in the second. After junior Laura Trout reached on an error to start the inning and moved to second on a force at first, sophomore Ashley Pauly (2-for-4, two runs) hit a double to put runners at second and third for Georgia. Junior Taylor Schlopy (1-for-3) then drew a walk to load the bases before Wiggins hit an infield RBI single to make the score 3-0.
The Bulldogs plated their fourth run after junior Goler smacked a sacrifice fly to deep center, scoring Pauly from third. This was Goler’s team-leading fourth sacrifice fly of the year, which ties her for fourth in school history.
Radford cut the deficit to 4-1 in the bottom of the second. With one out, sophomore Michelle Beall hit a bunt single and junior Taylor Cunningham followed with a bloop single to put runners at first and second.
The Highlanders then got their second out before junior Lauren Williams dropped an RBI double just inside the right field foul line to score Radford’s first and only run.
Georgia notched another two runs in the fourth inning to make it 6-1 thanks to three consecutive doubles. Pauly started the frame by advancing to second on a shot down the right field line. Schlopy then drove Pauly in after finding a hole in shallow center for the second double of the inning.
Schlopy’s double improved her hitting streak to 13 games. The Bulldogs’ third straight double came from Wiggins after she sent a pitch to center, pushing Schlopy home.
Sophomore Ashley Razey (2-for-4), a Buford High graduate, started off the fifth inning with a solo home run to left center. Razey’s 13th homer of the season gave Georgia a 7-1 edge.
The Bulldogs’ school-record sixth double came in the sixth inning to give Georgia an 8-1 lead. Goler hit a one-out single to start the rally before Hesson smacked an RBI double to deep center. Hesson had fouled off six pitches leading up to her hit.
Radford junior Chelsea Kelley (25-9) suffered the loss after giving up three hits and two earned runs in a third of an inning.