April 17, 2013

Softball Enters Conference Tournament as No. 3 Seed

DAHLONEGA, Ga. - The 13th-ranked University of North Georgia (UNG) softball team will be the #3 seed in this weekend's 2013 Peach Belt Conference Softball Championship beginning Saturday, Apr. 20 in St. Augustine, Fla. The Saints will play in the day's third game against the #6 seed University of South Carolina Aiken with a 4:00 p.m. first pitch.

UNG ended the regular-season 36-11 overall with a 16-6 mark in conference action to finish in a tie as far as records go with Georgia College. However, the Bobcats (34-14, 16-6 PBC) claimed the #2 spot with their doubleheader sweep of 23rd-ranked Columbus State University while the Saints split their doubleheader with Columbus. The Bobcats will play in the final game of Saturday, a 6:30 p.m. first pitch against #7 Francis Marion University (25-25, 9-13 PBC).

National No. 2 Armstrong Atlantic State University (35-6-1, 18-4 PBC) claimed its second straight regular-season PBC title, third in school history, after sweeping No. 14 Georgia College Tuesday afternoon. The Pirates will be the top seed in the tournament for the second straight year and will face #8 seed Georgia Southwestern State University (29-25, 9-13 PBC) in the tournament's first game at 11:00 a.m. The Hurricanes are making their first appearance in the conference tournament since 2009 after winning seven of their last 12 PBC games.

The final match up, which will be the day's second game at 1:30 p.m., will feature the defending tournament champions of Columbus State (36-16, 15-7 PBC) as the #4 seed taking on host and #5 seed Flagler College (32-16, 13-9 PBC). Columbus State enters the tournament one spot higher than last season and have won five of their last six games heading into the tournament while Flagler enters the weekend 16-2 on its home field this season including their last seven.

North Georgia enters this weekend led by the bat of sophomore catcher Kim McMillan, a two-time PBC Player of the Week this season. McMillan has provided a big offensive boost for the Saints as the lefty bats .404 while slugging .774 on the year with 13 home runs, 40 runs batted in, 59 hits, 43 runs scored and 15 doubles. She ranks third in the conference in batting average and is tied for second in home run total and runs batted in.

Behind McMillan, center fielder and lead off hitter Taylor Anne Merritt is batting .376 with a .447 on-base percentage and 36 runs scored while Kayla Minger, batting .353 for the season, leads the conference with 45 RBIs. Shortstop Tiffanie Burns also provides a boost of offensive as she has 11 homers on the season and a slugging percentage of .611.

In the circle, freshman Courtney Poole, March 25's PBC Freshman of the Week, is tied atop the conference with 22 wins this season. The right-handed pitcher leads the Saints' pitching staff of three with a 1.94 earned run average and 182 strikeouts in 176.2 innings of work. Her strikeouts mark has her fourth in the league.

North Georgia claimed three straight conference regular-season and tournament titles from 2009-11 while going 12-0 in that span. The Saints will be making their sixth consecutive appearance in the conference tournament and have played in the last five championship games. Over the last five years, they boast an impressive record of 18-3 in the PBC tournament.

The winner between North Georgia and USC Aiken will move on to the semifinal round on Sunday where they will face the winner of the game between Georgia College and Francis Marion at 1:30 p.m. The other semifinal game will be played at 11:00 a.m. with the championship game to be contested at 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The winner of the PBC Tournament will receive the conference's automatic bid into the Southeast Regional held from Friday, May 10 through Sunday, May 12. 

All the action from the tournament can be found HERE including a bracket and game times.