Photos by Luzny Photography
– The top-ranked North Georgia Saints punched their ticket to
the championship round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Dahlonega
Regional with a 5-2 win over Francis Marion Saturday afternoon at
Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.
The Saints (47-0) scored three runs in the first inning and two in the second, and then relied on the right arm of undefeated pitcher Sarah Phillips and some stellar defense to get past the Patriots (34-15) for the fifth consecutive win in the season series between the two clubs.
“They are a very good team, and we like to think we are too,” said FMU coach Stacey Vallee. “It’s constantly a good battle with them.”
The Saints got things rolling in the top of the first inning. Laura Voyles started, lining a triple into the right field corner. Two batters later, Courtney McGuire plated the first run with a deep sacrifice fly to left field. Leslee Smith was hit by a pitch and Hilary Cox doubled into the right field gap to give the Saints runners at second and third. Katherine Martin made it 3-0, driving a line drive single into the right field gap to score a pair of runs.
The Saints were at it again in the top of the second, scoring twice to push the lead to 5-0. Kasey Knight reached on a bunt single and Voyles picked up her second hit of the game, with a single to left. Knight scored on a fielder’s choice by McGuire and Voyles came home on a RBI single by Smith.
FMU’s Destinea Schneider broke up Phillips’ no-hitter in the bottom of the third inning reaching on an infield single to start the inning. But NGC catcher Natasha Willemse quickly erased Schneider, throwing her out on an attempted steal. Knight came up with another stellar defensive play later in the inning, sprinting from shortstop into shallow left field to make a sliding catch along the left field line to rob Chelle Phillips of a hit.
The Patriots reached Phillips for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Michaela Wolf singled to lead off the inning, and two batters later, Phillips left a pitch in the middle of the strike zone that Cea Knox hammered over the left field fence for a two-run shot. The home run was just the 10th allowed by Phillips this season.
Knox came on to pitch in the third and completely shut down the Saints. Knox didn’t allow a hit until the top of the sixth when Voyles singled. The Saints loaded the bases with two outs but Knox got out of trouble when Smith just missed a pitch and flew out to deep center.
“We tried to keep going and Cea did a good job (of keeping us in the game),” said Vallee. “She has done well against them and she also hit a big bomb for us.”
Things got interesting in the bottom of the seventh, but Phillips finished off the complete game to run her record to 40-0 on the season. Phillips struck out Meghan Heiser on an inside fastball on a 3-2 pitch and got Jessica Hogan on a ground ball to Knight a shortstop. After back-to-back hits by Schneider and Kat Beauvais, Phillips induced a shallow fly by Chelle Phillips that Pilar Harden collected to end the scoring threat and send the Saints to the championship round.
Phillips allowed two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out five. She collected 10 outs on flouts and five on ground balls, while lowering her earned run average to 1.10. Wolf gave up five runs on six hits and a walk but Know kept the Patriots in the game with five solid innings of relief work. Knox allowed just one hit and walked four during her time in the circle.
Both teams finished the game with seven hits. Voyles led the North Georgia attack with three hits out of the leadoff spot to raise her average to .355 and also scored twice. Smith, Cox, Martin and Knight each had a hit with McGuire and Martin each finished with a pair of RBI.
Wolf and Schneider each had two hits for the Patriots with Knox, Beauvais and Michelle Birchmeier each finished with a hit.