Karla Beasley’s RBI single in the seventh gave the Spartans all the advantage it would need as USC Upstate took a 4-3 victory over 11th-ranked Georgia in non-conference softball action Wednesday night at Jack Turner Stadium.
Upstate improved to 35-7 on the year with the win. The Spartans picked up its second win over the Bulldogs in the last three years. At No. 11, Georgia is the highest-ranked opponent the Spartans have ever defeated following a win over No. 23 Syracuse in 2012 and No. 21 South Alabama last year in the Tuscaloosa Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
Upstate will return to action when it plays host to A-Sun rival Lipscomb Saturday and Sunday in a key A-Sun series at Cyrill Stadium. Georgia fell to 35-11 on the year with the loss.
“This was a great college softball game and I am extremely happy that we came out with the win,” said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. “I thought Lexi pitched very well and limited a very good Georgia lineup. We got key hits when we needed them and got a really big win for our program and for this team moving forward the rest of the season.”
Georgia opened the scoring in the first inning to open an early 1-0 lead. Cortni Emmanuel led off the inning with an infield single and stole second. She scored on Paige Wilson’s two-out double to give the Bulldogs the early advantage.
After a scoreless second, Upstate made some noise in the third inning to take a 2-1 lead. Paris Prusak led off the inning with a walk. Hayley Reinfeld reached on a bunt and Aly Schneider moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Shellie Robinson then drove a double down the line in left to bring home the runners and give the Spartans the lead.
Georgia looked to grab the lead back in the bottom of the third, but Upstate starter Lexi Shubert pitched out of the jam. The Bulldogs put runners on second and third with one out and their No. 5 and 6 hitters coming to the plate. Shubert, though, struck out Anna Swofford and got Tina Iosefa to pop out on a standout play by Schneider, who sprinted and caught the pop fly while colliding with the wall, to get out of the inning.
Georgia battled back and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Katie Browne got just enough of Shubert’s curve to send a spinning ball off the end of Shubert’s glove and score Niaja Griffin from third.
Upstate rallied back in the fifth inning to take the lead back from the Bulldogs. The Spartans loaded the bases as Georgia starter Chelsea Wilkinson was careful with Robinson and Kendall Settlemyre at the plate and walked both to bring up Dana Landers. Landers lifted a long fly ball to left to score Reinfeld with the go-ahead run.
In a game of ebb and flow, Georgia looked to make noise in the sixth inning. The Bulldogs put runners on first and second with one out. Shubert got a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Emmanuel reached on an infield single to load the bases. However, Shubert got Sydni Emmanuel to send a grounder to the left side where Landers scooped it up, tossed it over the Settlemyre and got a force out at third to end the inning and Bulldog threat.
Upstate added an insurance run in the seventh. Robinson reached on an error to lead off the inning and advanced to second on Settlemyre’s sacrifice bunt. Beasley then singled up the middle to plate Robinson and give the Spartans a 4-2 lead for the eventual game-winning run.
Georgia rallied in the seventh inning to make things interesting. The Bulldogs put runners on first and second with one out and Iosefa doubled to left to score a run and get the Bulldogs within 4-3. It also put runners on second and third. Shubert struck out Griffin for the second out of the inning. After loading the bases with a walk, Shubert got Browne to ground out to Cheyenne Griffin at first to end the game and give the Spartans the win.
Shubert allowed three runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts to get the win. She improved to 25-5 on the year. Wilkinson took the loss for Georgia, allowing four runs on eight hits to stand 21-7.