#15 Georgia Softball 2016 Preview

Georgia Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #7 SEC
Georgia Logo 
Georgia continued its run of excellence in 2015 by winning 44 games and making another trip to Super Regionals. And they just missed out on forcing a winner take all game in the Ann Arbor Super Regional as Michigan won the decisive second game 7-6. A veteran team returns for head coach Lu Harris-Champer that will be locked and loaded for a run back to Oklahoma City.
2015 record: 44-17, 14-9
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lu Harris-Champer
Field Players:
NFCA All-America Second-Team infielder/catcher Alex Hugo will lead the way for the Bulldogs in 2016. Hugo is one of the top offensive players in all of college softball as she hit .389 with 22 homeruns and 73 runs batted in last season. Sophomore infielder Cortni Emanuel finished eighth overall in the nation with 45 stolen bases, while batting .408 as a freshman. Junior outfielder Sydni Emanuel had a big first season after transferring from Texas Tech. Emanuel batted .421, which led Georgia in batting average, and her speed was another dangerous weapon as Emanuel stole 22 bases in 23 attempts.
There is a nice 1-2 punch in the circle for the Bulldogs that should position them to do very well in the postseason. Senior Chelsea Wilkinson is the ace. She won 28 games in 2015 and ate up 242.2 innings in 2015. Wilkinson also has the ability to be very dominant at times as she struck out 266 batters and held opposing hitters to a .190 batting average. Sophomore Brittany Gray will be the number two starter and will continue to be a nice change of pace for Georgia. Gray pitches more to contact than Wilkinson. She won 15 games in her freshman season while making 18 starts in 34 appearances.
Who to Watch:
Senior catcher/infielder Tina Iosefa will bring that very important bit of experience and leadership to the table that will help the Bulldogs stay consistent offensively. Iosefa hit .350 with eight homeruns and 41 runs batted in. The clutch hitting during SEC play is another reason that Iosefa will be a key player in 2016. She hit .322 during SEC games in 2015. Senior outfielder Samantha LaZear made 32 starts last season and hit .330. It will be very interesting to see what happens with LaZear’s production if she gets more starts this season.
Final Projection:
For Georgia their schedule in the early portion of the season will be very conducive to a strong start. The biggest tests prior to SEC play will be against UCLA, Northwestern and Minnesota. Despite missing Florida in the conference schedule, the Bulldogs will have plenty of challenges ahead of them. A trip to Columbia to play rival South Carolina during the opening weekend will set the tone for Georgia’s run at a conference title. It will be a big plus for the Bulldogs if they could somehow sweep the Gamecocks. Trips to Auburn and Alabama over the course of the final three weeks of the season will decide if the Bulldogs end up contending for the SEC Championship. Overall, with Hugo and Wilkinson leading the way, look for Georgia to win over 40 games once again in 2016.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Cortni Emanuel, IF, 191
Hits: Cortni Emanuel, IF, 80
Home Runs: Alex Hugo, IF/C, 22
RBIs: Alex Hugo, IF/C, 73
Runs: Alex Hugo, IF/C, 63
Stolen Bases: Cortni Emanuel, IF, 45
Wins: Chelsea Wilkinson, P, 28
Innings Pitched: Chelsea Wilkinson, P, 242.2
Strikeouts: Chelsea Wilkinson, P, 266
Saves: Chelsea Wilkinson , P, 1
Madness 2016 Softball Draft Rankings:
#7 Chelsea Wilkinson
#17 Alex Hugo
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#37 Alyssa DiCarlo