GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The University of Georgia softball team picked up its second-straight shutout of No. 4 Florida Saturday afternoon, 6-0, and secured a spot in the 2021 Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The Bulldogs (34-21) will face either No. 5 Oklahoma State or No. 12 Texas in the opening round of the WCWS Thursday, June 3.
The 2021 WCWS will be Georgia's fifth appearance in Oklahoma City in program history.
Graduate Mary Wilson Avant (20-10) earned her second complete-game shutout of the Gators on the weekend. She allowed only four hits while striking out four.
Georgia scattered eight hits to Florida's four. Sophomore Sydney Kuma and junior Lacey Fincher each tallied two hits. Kuma joined redshirt-sophomore Jaiden Fields and freshman Jayda Kearney to take Florida pitchers deep in the game. Junior Savana Sikes was on base four times with a hit-by-pitch and three walks and came in to score twice.
Sikes was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the first. She pulled up at third on a double off the way in left by Kuma. Fincher drove in Sikes with a single down the left field line, putting Georgia out in front 1-0 in the first.
Fields doubled Georgia's lead with a leadoff home run in the home half of the second, her second long ball of the weekend, to make it a 2-0 game.
Georgia's third-straight scoring inning came in the third when Kearney knocked a solo home run to left center, lengthening the lead to 3-0 for the Bulldogs.
The third Georgia home run of the day was a two-run monster shot to into the palm trees in center off the bat of Kuma to make it a 5-0 game. With two on later in the inning, freshman Sydney Chambley singled to center to drive in sophomore Sara Mosley and bring the tally to 6-0 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Avant held the shutout through the sixth and seventh innings en route to the victory in game two and a ticket to Oklahoma City.
Georgia Head Coach Lu Harris-Champer
"First, I just want to thank Florida. I think you all did a great job hosting the event, always just an A-plus event over here. Again, really proud of the team. I thought they played with a lot of synergy, lot of heart, lot of grit, lot of guts. Just the team, as a whole, banded together and got the job done. Super proud of Savvy (Sikes) as a leadoff, getting on-base four times. Then, Jaiden Fields with a bomb, and Jayda Kearney, a bomb from her. Sydney Kuma with a big blast that put us up pretty big. And then, I can't say enough about Mary Wilson (Avant). Every time I get to watch her pitch, it's a blessing. I thought she came out and pitched her heart out two days in a row. Then, at the end of the day, it's Mary and the defense-defense wins championships. Super proud of the team for playing clean defense all weekend and I think that was a big difference for us. Just really proud of the team-lot of grit, lot of guts."
On making the Women's College World Series as an unseeded team...
"I think it's just the continued belief in each other. There were times in the season where we could've gotten down on each other, but we didn't. We stayed strong together, and at the end of the day, you have to have that trust with each other, so you can play hard with and for each other. I think that was the difference for us-just really trusting each other and going out each day to play hard."
On Mary Wilson Avant's back-to-back shutout performances...
"She really went out and just trusted herself. Coach (Rachele) Fico and Mary came up with a great plan and they both executed that plan together, and Mary just trusted her, and they talk about things between innings. Mary's able to say what she's thinking. They just work hard together, and I'm proud of her just going out and playing with joy, letting her teammates have her back, letting the defense pick it up, and they did that for her and for each other."
On comparing this team to previous years...
"I tell them all the time, win, lose, or draw, that they're so special because they really are. They just have something so tenacious about them. It's a blessing to be with this team. They really just have a lot of guts and a lot of heart. When you have that, you can go a long way. You can get knocked out, but you can stand up, and that's a big part of it, because not every day is going to be smooth sailing, and that's just part of life. You've got to get up and respond and be able to focus on what you want and the good things that can happen."
On Coach Baldwin and Fico's game plan...
"Those two coaches are fantastic and have done a wonderful job. Like I said, Coach Fico, she makes such a good plan, reads hitters, does so much to be prepared and have her pitchers be successful. Then, with Coach Tony (Baldwin), I'm so proud of him too, getting the hitters ready. Really good plans, and very calm and composed plans with each batter. Getting back after the conference tournament, it was nice to have some practice days. I know they were long for y'all, but it was nice to get some training in. He's really good at setting things up to mimic and mirror what we're about to face, and I think that paid off for us."
Graduate Mary Wilson Avant
On staying in the zone in the circle...
"I think it's a lot about the mindset you come in with. I've kind of adjusted as the season has gone on, but I really focused on having an attack mindset and going for the pitches I want, seeing the pitches I want, and then, staying loose and having fun with it as well. I have Savana (Sikes) and Lacey (Fincher) on my corners, and they're two of my best friends, and they're out there cracking jokes, making me laugh, loose, chill. Payden (Bordeau) work really well together, so that helps me keep that tunnel vision as well."
On the run support from her teammates...
"It helps so much. There's not a single person in our lineup that I don't have complete confidence in. Every person that comes up to bat, I know that they're going to have their moment and their time, and it's so fun to watch."
On expectations for the WCWS...
"We are very dangerous at the point we're at right now. We're playing with so much joy that we're able to do what we want to do and attack the way we want to attack. As long as we keep playing with that joy and competitiveness, we can go really far."
Sophomore Sydney Kuma
On her game-breaking home run...
"I think it was our determination to get on their pitchers, and we've been practicing this whole time to get it done, get it done early. It helps Mary when we get those runs up early, takes some stress off of her back. We were determined and we wanted to get our pitch, and when we saw our pitch, to get our swing off, and that's what we did tonight."
On expectations for the WCWS...
"We're just dangerous right, we're hot. We're going to take any team that comes our way and we're going to do our thing every single at-bat, every single pitch, and we're going to get it done."