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Georgia infielder Lacey Fincher (44) signals from second base during a NCAA softball game on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Jack Turner Softball Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Georgia defeated Alabama State 9-1 in six innings. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

No. 16 Georgia softball overcame a sluggish offensive start on Sunday against Kent State to eventually win by a score of 4-1 at Jack Turner Stadium. 

The Bulldogs were backed by a complete game, 12-strikeout performance from graduate student Mary Wilson Avant. 

Offense was at a premium early in the game. Through four innings, both teams had registered a combined two hits. Despite a lack of run support, Avant said she was able to focus on her pitching approach from batter to batter.

“I think that something that I’ve been working on is just trusting my pitches and playing free, and so it’s more important to do that when I have runners on because that’s when my pitches work the best,” Avant said. “I think it just takes investing in your teammates. I have a really good connection with my infield, so I am able to just stay grounded and strategic in what I’m doing.”

Head coach Lu Harris-Champer said that Avant’s determination served as leadership on the field, even when Georgia’s bats were quiet. 

“Mary is a pro. She’s out there doing her thing and supporting her team,” Harris-Champer said. “She’s not worried about what’s happening on the other side of the ball. ... I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

After Kent State took a 1-0 advantage in the top of the fifth, Georgia responded in the bottom of the sixth inning with a double to left field by Mackenzie Puckett and a subsequent walk by Lacey Fincher sparked a two-out rally. It was Sara Mosley’s RBI single that snuck under the center fielder’s glove to bring home the tying and go-ahead runs in the inning. 

“[My experience] helped me a lot just to stay calm and to know that they wanted to get me out because they got me twice before,” Mosley said. “But those are the moments that I love to be in. I wanted to just stay calm, do it for my team and do my thing.”

The scoring did not stop there. The Bulldogs pushed across two more runs in the sixth on an RBI single from Jayda Kearney and RBI double from Savana Sikes. Georgia’s four runs in the inning were all it needed to win. 

Avant credits much of the Bulldogs’ recent success to their “loud” and “together” team that brings a unique “synergy.” Georgia’s offensive approach was key in today’s win, Harris-Champer said. 

“We put five quality at-bats together [in the sixth inning] and scored four runs. It’s that simple,” Harris-Champer said. “We have to pass the bat and have each other’s back. We have to find ways to get somebody on, get them over, and get them in. I’m really proud of the fight at the end of the day.”

The Bulldogs are 5-2 on the season after their first two weekends of competition. They will next play on Friday against Kennesaw State, with the first pitch at Jack Tuner Stadium set for 5 p.m.