WARNER ROBINS -- When Georgia fell behind by a run to South Carolina on Saturday in the Little League Southeastern Regional softball tournament, head coach Roger Stella was not overly worried.
He said that, before the game, he had the feeling that his team was ready to play. That instinct came true, as Georgia rolled to a 14-1 win to advance in elimination bracket play.
Georgia will take on Virginia at 3 p.m. on Sunday in what will be the first of two elimination games Sunday for the winner. Virginia knocked Florida out of the tournament with a 5-0 win Saturday.
Ellie Williams, Kaylee Brown and Rylee Lamb each had three hits for Georgia, and Lamb pitched a two-hitter and retired the final 12 batters she faced to record the win.
“We were so loose before the game, and we were joking around and singing and just so relaxed that I knew we would play well,” said Stella, whose team lost 4-3 to Tennessee on Friday. “We didn’t really worry about batting practice or infield practice because, really, if they don’t have all of that by now then they just won’t have it. We really just wanted them loose and having fun.
“It wasn’t a great start, but hitting is contagious, and once we got started we did the job. I am just extremely happy the way we came back (Saturday) after a tough loss.”
Things didn’t start off great for Georgia. Lamb was touched for an unearned run in the first, and her team could not push a run across in the first two innings.
Georgia finally got things rolling in the third. With one out, Williams, who is now 8-for-10 in the tournament, tripled to right and scored on a bunt single by Brown. A deep sacrifice fly by Taylor Corley drove Brown home to give Georgia a 2-1 lead.
“At that point in the game, we were just relaxing and trying to score a few runs,” said Corley, who wound up two hits. “The main thing I wanted to do was to get the run in from third, and I was just happy I hit the ball deep enough to score the run. I think once we got the lead, we knew everything was going to be fine.”
Georgia put the game away in the next couple of innings, scoring three times in the fourth and five times in the fifth to blow things open.
Brown, who struck out to end the Friday night’s game, reached safely all five times she came to bat Saturday, recording three hits, two walks, two runs scored and three RBI. She also made the defensive play of the game in the third inning, when she went deep into the hole at second base and threw out the runner, stopping a run from scoring.
“The Friday game was frustrating, but sometimes you just have to shake it off, forget about it, and move on to the next game,” Brown said. “You have to have confidence when you step into the box and believe things will work out. This team still has a lot of confidence that we can make it to the final game.”
The Georgia-Virginia winner will return to the field at 7 p.m. on Sunday to take on the loser of the North Carolina-Tennessee winners’ bracket final. North Carolina and Tennessee will face off at noon.
“We have played five or six games in a day, so two won’t bother us at all,” Stella said. “I feel like we are playing as well as we can, and playing on Sunday at the Southeastern Regional should be a lot of fun. I know I am super excited to be here.”