Athens, Ga. – Celebrating her 22nd birthday, senior Ericka Harris belted a two-run home run in the seventh and collected three RBIs, and pitcher Anna Miller tossed six strong innings of relief to lead the USC Upstate softball team to an 8-5 victory over Georgia Wednesday night at Jack Turner Stadium.
Upstate improved to 36-5 on the year with the win. The Spartans travel to Ft. Myers, Fla., to take on Florida Gulf Coast in a key A-Sun series Saturday and Sunday. Georgia fell to 31-15 on the year.
"It was good to rebound after this past weekend and beat a very good Georgia team," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "We relied on the most solid part of our game, which is defense, and execution. Anna has become a very good pitcher for us and that is really going to help us out down the stretch. I was shocked that Ericka hit a home run, but very, very happy she did."
Georgia jumped on top with a pair of runs in each of the first and second innings to open a 4-0 lead. In the first, the Bulldogs put runners on first and third when Kaylee Puailoa doubled to drive in both runs. In the second, Christine Olney tripled to drive in the first run of the inning and scored on Niaja Griffin's infield single to give the Bulldogs a 4-0 advantage.
Hawkins lifted starter Jamie Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) and brought in Miller (Portland, Ore.). Miller came in and got the Spartans out of the second inning without further runs crossing the plate and was solid in the third inning, retiring the heart of the Georgia lineup in order and allowed just one runner with no damage in the fourth.
Upstate got its first hit of the game off the bat of Dana Landers (Simpsonville, S.C.) in the fifth and that opened the flood gates in the inning as Upstate plated five runs on key hits and Georgia errors. Landers smacked a leadoff double to right center.
After a marathon at bat, Cheyenne Griffin (Moore, S.C.) reached on a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third and both came home when Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) reached on an error by the Georgia second baseman to cut the Bulldog lead to 4-2 with no outs. After Georgia starter Chelsea Wilkinson hit Kendall Settlemyre (Hickory, N.C.) with a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs, Bulldog head coach Lu Harris-Champer took Wilkinson out and put Geri Ann Glasco in the circle.
With pinch hitter Marche Llanos (Kapolei, Hawaii) at the plate, the Spartans attempted a double steal and the runners were safe on a dropped ball by the Bulldog third baseman. The Spartans loaded the bases with no outs when Llanos was hit by a pitch.
Upstate tied the game at 4-4 on an unconventional ground out. Lindsay Kelly (Jacksonville, Fla.) grounded the ball to second to bring in pinch runner Lindsey Greeson (Stanley, N.C.) from third. The Bulldog second baseman threw out Kelly at first and attempted to get pinch runner Hayley Reinfeld (Parkland, Fla.) out at second. She was safe and Settlemyre scampered home on the throw to tie the game at 4-4.
Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) gave Upstate the lead when she smacked a single down the line in left to bring in Reinfeld from second for a 5-4 Spartans advantage.
Upstate got a couple of nice defensive plays in the fifth inning to take the 5-4 advantage into the latter stages of the game. With a runner on first, Griffin smacked a grounder up the middle that was fielded cleanly by Kieffer who dove and tagged out the Bulldog runner trying to advance to second. A batter later, Landers caught a line drive and doubled off Griffin at first to end the inning.
Georgia attempted to tie the game in the sixth, putting a runner at second with one out. A fly out to center gave Georgia two outs in the inning and Miller struck out Bulldog shortstop Tess Sito for the third out of the inning as Upstate took a 5-4 lead into the seventh.
Upstate used the long ball to distance itself for Georgia in the seventh. Harris punctuated her birthday with a two-run home run to give the Spartans a 7-4 lead and Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) belted a solo shot to center as the Spartans carried an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Anna Swafford belted a solo home run to get Georgia within 8-5, but Miller stood strong and Upstate took the 8-5 victory for its second ever victory over an SEC team after claiming three wins over South Carolina in 2010 (2) and 2011 (1).
Miller went six strong innings, allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts. She improved to 4-1 on the year with the win. Glasco took the loss and fell to 17-6.
Harris came up huge at the plate, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.