On an overcast day with patches of rain coming and going at Jack Turner Stadium, the Georgia softball team looked to clinch the series win over the No. 8 ranked Tennessee Volunteers. After an early five run deficit, the Bulldogs managed to spark a comeback and tie the game, but The Volunteers snuck out with a 7-6 win.
Conversely, to game one of the doubleheader, Tennessee came out as the aggressor on offense and jumped out to an early lead. The 5-0 lead came in the first three innings, thanks to a couple of home runs from Haley Bearden and Chelsea Seggern.
The flurry of runs forced Georgia’s hand. Mary Wilson Avant’s day ended early and Madison McPherson entered in relief. The redshirt sophomore had only pitched about 11 innings throughout the season coming into the game, but head coach Lu Harris-Champer thought she did a great job to come in and keep Georgia within striking distance.
“I love her change of speeds and the fact that she’s a competitor,” Harris-Champer said. “I thought she did a really good job spinning the ball.”
Going into the bottom half of the fourth, Tennessee was dominating on both sides. Caylan Arnold held a no-hitter over the Bulldogs and the Volunteers put up eight hits of their own, resulting in six runs. The early innings in game one and game two were polar opposites for the Bulldogs.
“They’re two different games. I mean the first game is over, it’s not a continuation,” Harris-Champer said. “I thought Tennessee made some adjustments, they came out swinging early in the counts.”
A pitching change for Tennessee in the bottom of the fourth brought in Ashley Rodgers for Arnold. The Bulldogs almost instantly took advantage as Mahlena O’Neal saw a pitch she liked and hit a home run that fell just short of a fan’s ‘Hit Me’ sign in the center field bleachers.
Georgia continued to chip away at the Tennessee lead, eventually bringing it to one run going into the sixth inning. Even though the Bulldogs were getting out-hit 10 to three through five innings, they still found themselves with a chance to win. Alyssa DiCarlo and Harris-Champer both agreed that it always comes back to how much competitiveness and fight the team has. Harris-Champer was also proud of the offensive game plan at the plate during the comeback, which was working deep counts until they saw a pitch worth hitting.
Tennessee continued with Ashley Rodgers, and sophomore Tyler Armistead hit a home run in practically the same spot as the home run Mahlena O'Neal hit in the fourth to tie the game going into the seventh.
It wasn’t long after when Haley Bearden reclaimed the lead for the Volunteers and Georgia made another pitching change, bringing in Lauren Mathis to finish the game.
The Bulldogs rallied a few hits together and loaded the bases in the bottom half of the seventh inning. O’Neal—who was a pivotal part of the comeback—lined into a double play and ended the hope of a walk-off win and the series clinch for the Bulldogs.
“We just have to come out and play Georgia softball,” Harris-Champer said of the rubber match on Sunday at 2 p.m. “Just really get out there and band together and fight. When we’re in it together, there’s a lot of good things that happen for us.”