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The Athens Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament opened as expected, with host squad Georgia claiming a run-rule victory over Georgia State to start the regional and advancing through the winner’s bracket with a Bulldog win over the Blazers. The Red and Black never trailed in either game.
Morgan Montemayor worked all five frames of Friday afternoon’s outing, striking out six in a four-hit shutout. The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, which shortstop Laura Trout began with a leadoff single. Second baseman Ashley Pauly sacrificed her over to second, left fielder Megan Wiggins moved her over to third on a base hit, and center fielder Taylor Schlopy reached on the fielder’s choice that brought her home. Following a stolen base by Schlopy and a walk drawn by third baseman Alisa Goler, right fielder Brianna Hesson plated two with a single to center field.
The Red and Black onslaught continued in the fourth inning, once again beginning with a leadoff single by Trout. A stolen base and a bunt single moved her over to third, and she scored when Wiggins reached on a fielder’s choice. Schlopy plated Pauly with a double, and, after Goler drew a base on balls, Hesson drove in three with the double that made it 8-0, ultimately causing the run rule to be invoked.
Montemayor had such a good game on Friday that she went again on Saturday, fanning three in five cantos’ worth of three-hit softball. Catcher Ashley Razey led off the top of the second stanza with a solo home run, and Pauly and Wiggins followed suit in the third inning, beginning the Bulldogs’ turn at the plate with back-to-back jacks to right field. The Red and Black extended their lead in the fifth frame on a leadoff single, a two-out walk, and a three-run homer by first baseman Kristyn Sandberg.
Wiggins’s two-run shot in the sixth stanza padded the Athenians’ advantage, but even the addition of an extra run later that inning was not enough to bring the mercy rule into play, as the Blazers had notched an unearned run in the third frame before adding another on a two-out solo home run in the sixth, so the Bulldogs used all seven stanzas to claim this victory.
While the number of Georgia errors over the first two games of the weekend provides cause for pause, the Red and Black demonstrated impressive power to put themselves within one win of a fourth straight NCAA Super Regional appearance. The Bulldogs will have two chances to advance, as they are scheduled to face the Florida St. Seminoles at noon, with the second game (if necessary) set for 2:30. The Tribe would have to beat Georgia twice to advance; if the Red and Black claim their 50th victory of the season in either outing tomorrow, they will have taken another large step toward a return appearance in the Women’s College World Series.