AMERICUS, GA – North Georgia reduced their magic number to zero Saturday evening, sweeping a doubleheader from Georgia Southwestern 8-0 and 6-2 to claim the 2009 Peach Belt Conference regular season championship.
“This team has overcome a lot of challenges throughout the
course of the season but have continued to battle and play as one
unit, head coach Mike Davenport said following the victory to claim
the championship. “This is a tremendous honor for our only
senior, Kaelin Farrington, and all the past players that have laid
the foundation for being a respected NCAA Division II
North Georgia extends their winning streak to 14 games and improve to 37-3 overall and 15-1 in the Peach Belt Conference, holding a full three-game lead with just two games to play in the regular season. Georgia Southwestern falls to 12-35 overall and 2-14 in the league.
The softball team claims the institution’s second regular season Peach Belt Conference Championship since the school entered the NCAA in 2005. North Georgia will now be the top overall seed in next week’s PBC Softball Tournament hosted by Francis Marion University at Freedom Florence Park.
Entering play with a 35-3 overall record and a 27-0 mark when scoring first, North Georgia set a good tone for the day by plating a run in the opening frame. Kasey Knight skied a one-out double to center, and after a flyout by Courtney McGuire and a wild pitch to move up the runner, cleanup hitter Leslee Smith brought in Knight with a line drive into left field on a 2-1 pitch from eventual losing pitcher Brittany Milstid (4-8).
One run would end up being enough, as sophomore Sarah Phillips (26-1) allowed just two base runners in six innings, while fanning 10. The only blemishes on her record were inflicted by junior shortstop Nichole Griffin, who singled to lead off the 2nd for the Lady Canes’ only hit, and drew a two-out walk in the fourth. She reached third base in the second frame, but Phillips escaped the jam with back-to-back strikeouts of first baseman Brandi Pratt and left fielder Anna Dankewich.
The game remained 1-0 going into the Saints’ fourth, when the breeze blowing out to left field presaged three solo homers. The first, by Leslee Smith, just escaped the reach of Dankewich. Pilar Harden followed with a drive that just snuck inside the left field foul pole, and two outs later Kayla Martin blasted her first homer as a Saint, a no-doubter to left center.
The Lady Saints put the game out of reach in a four-run sixth inning, highlighted by a two-run single by third baseman Laura Voyles.
Smith paced the offense, posting a 2-for-3 performance with three RBIs. Harden went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, and shortstop Kasey Knight made several nice stops while going 2-for-2 and scoring two runs.
In game two, McGuire and Smith coaxed first-inning walks, and Harden proceeded to cash in the charity with a single to left, bringing home McGuire to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Georgia Southwestern answered in the bottom of the first, as Brooke McLemore lofted a deep fly to left center with one out. A diving attempt by Stephanie Farmakis came up short as McLemore found herself on second base with a double. After a flyout to McGuire, cleanup hitter Nichole Griffin shot another double in the left-center gap to tie the score 1-1.
After a quiet second inning, the Saints reclaimed the lead when McGuire tripled off the right field fence and then scored on a passed ball with Smith at the plate. The lead was pushed to 4-1 an inning later as the Saints mounted a two-out rally. Martin drew a walk, Kaelin Farrington bounced an infield single to the right side, and Voyles also drew a free pass. Kasey Knight capitalized with a two-run double placed perfectly down the left field line to clear the bases.
After a long home run by Gabby Buck moved the Canes back within two runs, the Lady Saints added two more runs un the sixth, as Smith drove in Kim Stercay and McGuire with a ringing double to left center. That closed out the scoring in a 6-2 Saints victory.
Sarah Phillips battled through all seven innings to move to a league-leading 27-1 record, allowing five hits and striking out eight.
The Saints will look to continue their winning streak Monday afternoon as they travel to in-state rival Georgia College & State University for a regular season finale doubleheader set to start at 2:00 p.m.