Panthers Softball building off best season in recent years

Pitcher and infielder, Kinsley Jennings, pitches for the Panthers on Feb. 14 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Photo submitted by Georgia State Athletics

The 2023 softball season could see the massive jump that the Panthers need in a program headed in the right direction.

Last season saw Georgia State advance further in the Sun Belt tournament than they have in the past five seasons. 

Under Coach Nelson, the Panthers had various rough patches but also highlight moments of pure brilliance. One of those moments came in a 4-1 victory over No. 22 ranked Louisiana.

Bailee Richardson is returning for her senior season after having a stellar season last year, with a team-best .315 batting average and 10 home runs. 

The team was very successful at home, boasting an (11-6) home record at Bob Heck Softball Complex. Georgia State secured impressive 3-2 and 8-5 victories against conference opponents in Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State, respectively. 

The journey on the road would seem to be the Panthers’ downfall as they plummeted against several tough opponents. One of these games came when Georgia State traveled down to the swamp in a tough test against the fourth-ranked Florida Gators. 

The Gators came in only losing one game all season and were on top of the SEC standings with a (16-1) record. In what was an impressive showing by the Panthers bullpen, returning sophomore pitcher Hallie Adams allowed only four hits to the explosive bats of Florida. 

Freshman Daisy Hess opened up scoring in the top of the second inning, stealing home plate. The lead wouldn’t last as the Gators cashed in on an error at the bottom of the second. Florida would tack onto the lead with runs scored in the fifth and sixth inning to pull away in a 3-1 loss for the Panthers.

Only two days later, we would see the rematch between Georgia State and Florida, and this meeting was not as competitive as the former. The Panthers were served their second shutout of the season, as the Gators scored seven runs in the second inning that ultimately led to an 8-0 victory.

The Panthers (7-12) had just a few days to recover until they traveled to face off against an in-state opponent and a Georgia team that was (20-2) on the season. Georgia State went up early in the first inning with runs by Bailee Richardson and Chloe Middlebrooks. 

That would be the only runs scored as the Bulldogs ran in four in the fifth inning, propelling them to a 6-2 victory and the Panthers’ third straight loss. This would become a common theme with Georgia State as they finished the season with a (4-22) road record and an overall record of (21-33). 

The overall record does not paint the total picture of a season that saw new records being set. The Panthers set a new all-time stolen bases record with over 121 bases stolen, which Nicholson knew they were capable of.

“My first goal was to see them and see what their athletic ability was, so that’s what we did the first few weeks,” Nicholson said. “We put them in, and said, hey let’s go, and I was able to evaluate and say that this team’s actually faster than it would say on paper.”

Hess led the way with 29 stolen bases and 11 apiece from Sophie Mooney and Richardson.

Twenty members of the team were named Easton/NFCA All-America Scholar Athletes. The Panthers boasted a 3.63 team GPA which was No. 17 in all of Division-I. Heading into her second year Nicholson has many positives to build off of.