The Athens Super Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament got underway on Saturday night before a rowdy capacity crowd in the Classic City and a national television audience on ESPNU, but, despite an encouraging start, what fans were treated to was an embarrassing outing for just about everyone in red and black not named Megan Wiggins.
The game began with a bang, as the Lady Bears’ initial baserunner was gunned down on a steal attempt in the top of the opening inning and Wiggins began the Bulldogs’ turn at the plate with a first-pitch home run. After that, though, matters quieted down considerably, as there followed three scoreless stanzas, including a fourth frame in which Georgia stranded a pair of baserunners.
Baylor belatedly answered Wiggins’s opening shot with a first-pitch leadoff home run in the top of the fifth canto to tie the game, and the Lady Bears took the lead in the sixth stanza when a trio of singles to left field produced the go-ahead run. A subsequent base hit brought home another, a wild pitch plated one more, and a bases-loaded base hit made it 5-1 in favor of the visitors from the Big 12. Though Georgia subsequently stranded a trio of baserunners in the remaining innings, the game essentially was over at that point.
There is no sugar-coating this setback. The Bulldogs’ advantages included playing on their own home field before a sellout crowd and, frankly, being the better team, but they certainly didn’t play like the better team tonight. Despite striking out six, Morgan Montemayor surrendered eight hits and five earned runs in five and one-third innings, while the Red and Black were anemic at the plate: Georgia was out-hit, 9-3, and Brianna Hesson, Ashley Pauly, Ashley Razey, Kristyn Sandberg, Taylor Schlopy, and Laura Trout combined to go hitless in 16 at-bats.
This game stunk, and, as a result, the Bulldogs are now one loss away from postseason elimination. The favored Athenians will have to sweep the Lady Bears on Sunday to survive a super regional they ought to have owned from the outset.