April 20, 2008

Never-Die Saints fall in Championship game

North Georgia will wait for regional birth

FLORENCE, SC - North Georgia College & State University poured heart and passion into their first ever PBC tournament appearance, emerging out of the losers bracket Sunday afternoon with a handful of miracle comebacks to down Francis Marion and GCSU, but fell in a sudden-death game to the Bobcats in extra-innings. The Saints will now wait on word of a likely NCAA Regional which will be announced this week.

Krista Bess sent the Saints to the title game with a walk-off two-run homer to centerfield to send Francis Marion packing in the semi-final game on Championship Sunday. The Saints will spend the night in Florence, South Carolina before returning to the North Georgia campus Monday afternoon.

In game one, to advance to play GCSU, North Georgia used a dramatic walk-off blast by Krista Bess to dead-center, giving the Saints a 5-4 win over Francis Marion to emerge out of the losers bracket. The Patriots came marching back with a two runs in the seventh to force extra innings and even took a one run lead in the ninth, but the Saints never gave up, using a one out double by Kaelin Farrington to set up the walk-off blast by the Saints only senior on the squad.

Sarah Phillips (17-6) picked up her third win of the tournament, tossing a complete game and allowing nine hits and just two earned runs while striking out 10.

North Georgia then advanced to the championship where had to beat the Bobcats twice to win the title, and they took care of business in game, dowing GCSU 7-3 to advance to the sudden-death game.

Leslee Smith had the game of her life as the designated player, recording three hits and driving in four runs to lead the Saints. Tiffany Blackburn and Courtney McGuire both added a pair of hits and an RBI for the Saints while Farrington drove in the other run with a sacrifice fly.

Nicole Adkison (9-3) picked up the win in her first tournament appearance while Phillips grabbed her second save of the season.

In the final game, things looked good for the Saints (35-13) early as the put up two runs in the third. Laura Voyles and Kasey Knight began the inning with back-to-back singles. Tiffany Blackburn then followed with a seeing-eye single to load the bases with nobody out. Courtney McGuire then walked on four straight pitches to score the first run and that was enough to chase Medders, who started on the rubber for GCSU.

Mandy Chandler took over and faced Leslee Smith who popped a shot straight up in the air. Ironically, it was Medders, just installed at third, who dropped the infield fly allowing Knight to score. Smith was out on the infield fly rule and Chandler got a strikeout and pop out to end the inning down 2-0.

That score held until the fourth as NGCSU starter Ashley Phillips held GCSU to four hits through the first three innings. But in the fourth Shelbie Lindsey led off with a single and moved to second with one out as Haley Holloway walked. That brought up PBC Player of the Year Sherquita Bostick who looked at strike one and then sent the second pitch over the center field fence for a three-run home run.

That score held until the seventh as Chandler limited the Saints to just one hit in the fifth and sixth innings. In the seventh, Blackburn drew a one-out walk followed by a single from McGuire. Smith then drew a walk, loading the bases with one out. After a foul out by Stephanie Farmakis, the game came down to pinch-hitter Kim Stercay who quickly found herself down 0-2 to Chandler. But Stearcay took two balls, fouled the next pitch off, then took two more balls to draw the bases-loaded walk and tie the game, sending it to extras.

As the game crossed the three-hour mark, North Georgia opened the top of the ninth with a double from McGuire, but was put out at third on a great fielding play from GCSU third baseman Kori Pickowitz who made a diving stab at a ball hit by Smith. Smith ended up at second on the throw with one out. Chandler ended the threat by getting Farmakis and Natasha Willemse to pop and ground out, respectively.

The GCSU ninth began with a one-out single from Kati Pickowitz. Bostick then popped it up for the second out. Lindsey Swanson kept the inning alive with a single, moving Pickowitz to second, she later moved to third on a wild pitch, that brought Medders to the plate who sent a double to right field to end the game with the Bobcats 4-3 winners.