May 29, 2010

By Wendy Parker
Special to

Athens, Ga. - Giving Megan Wiggins -- or virtually any other batter in Georgia's powerful hitting order -- one extra pitch turned into disaster for California.

The Bulldogs had loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second inning of Saturday's NCAA Division I Super Regional on Saturday when Wiggins got a second chance to break a 1-1 tie.

On a full count, Wiggins hit a pop foul down the left field line that California's Jamia Reid intentionally let drop in front of her. The Golden Bears wanted to set up for a better defensive opportunity to get out of the inning -- ideally a double play -- but the gamble backfired.

And Wiggins made them pay in emphatic fashion, cracking the next pitch from freshman pitcher Jolene Henderson deep over the wall in right center field to give Georgia a 5-1 lead.

That opened the floodgates for the Bulldogs, who added five more runs in the fourth inning en route to a 10-1 victory (shortened to five innings because of the run rule) that advances them to the Women's College World Series for the second consecutive season.

"All you do is smile and hit the ball," said Wiggins of her second chance. "After I made contact with it, I knew it was gone."

The Georgia Softball Stadium crowd of 1,474 remained loud and vocal the rest of the way as Georgia starter Sarah McCloud permitted only three California hits in winning both games of the series.

On Friday, Georgia won 7-1, but the Bulldogs' prowess at the plate took on new dimensions in Game 2 as they aimed for the sweep. It's not just the power on display -- five starters have at least 10 homeruns on the season -- but the opportunistic nature of what Georgia does that left its opponents impressed.

"They're a good hitting team," Henderson said. "They really capitalize on your mistakes."

Georgia (48-11) also took advantage of two fielding errors in the fourth inning by California (44-19). A tough bouncing ball hit toward third baseman Jace Williams eluded her grasp, allowing Taylor Schlopy to reach base. Wiggins, the next batter, grounded to shortstop, where Taylor Kelly threw errantly on a fielder's choice.

After that, Alisa Goler drove in two runs with a single to center, and Georgia was well on its way to booking another trip to Oklahoma City. In their first game in the World Series, the Bulldogs will face defending NCAA champion Washington, ousted Oklahoma from the tournament on Friday.

"I'm just super proud of our team," Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer said. "We got a lot of great hits today, timely hitting."

And nothing more timely than Wiggins' crushing blow. For the game, the junior left fielder went 2-for-4 and scored three runs to add to her four RBI afternoon. In the first inning, Wiggins tied a Georgia school record by legging out an infield single to extend her hitting streak to 20 games.

California coach Diane Ninemire said the decision to let Wiggins' foul ball drop was Reid's but she wouldn't second-guess her player.

"It just turned out unlucky for us. Wiggins went with the pitch and got all of it," Ninemire said. "The game was tied at that point and we thought we could come up with a play defensively. If we get a strikeout there, she ends up looking like a hero."