March 29, 2011

No. 5 Saints Roll Past Braves as PBC Race Heats Up

DAHLONEGA, GA – The 5th-ranked North Georgia softball team continued to extend their winning streak on Tuesday afternoon, sweeping away UNC Pembroke 11-2 and 1-0 in a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.

The Saints push their winning streak to five six games with the doubleheader sweep, improving to 32-8 overall on the year and 8-2 in the Peach Belt Conference. The Braves fall back to the .500 mark at 17-17 overall on the season and 5-7 in league play.

With a Columbus State loss on Tuesday evening, the Saints now control their own destiny to capture the program's third straight regular season championship, sitting deadlocked with the Cougars atop the standings with the two teams set to clash on Saturday afternoon.

With North Georgia leading 5-2 in the sixth inning in game one of the doubleheader, the bats came alive, scoring six runs on five hits, capped by a walk-off three-run blast from Pilar Harden to give the Saints an 11-2 victory.

The long ball for Harden was her second of the day and fifth of the season as the junior produced the game's first run on a solo blast to left center to break the scoreless deadlock in the third inning.

Kasey Knight's average continued to climb in the opener with a perfect 4-for-4 game, including a pair of RBI singles to spark the top of the lineup.

Sarah Phillips (12-4) picked up the win in 5.2 innings of work, allowing two runs on five hits, while walking three and striking out four. Jessica Coan was called on in the sixth inning to slam the door and she did just that, striking out the only batter she faced to earn her first save of the year.

Coan went right back out to the circle in game two and found herself locked in a pitcher's duel as the Saints and Braves were scoreless heading to the last of the fifth inning. Kayla Martin would have something to say about that however, as the senior led off the inning with a solo blast down the left line to give North Georgia all the offense they would need a one-run victory.

The Braves mounted a rally in the seventh inning, using a leadoff double by Loren Bartz, but after a sacrifice bunt moved the tying run 60 feet away, Coan went to work and notched back-to-back strikeouts to end the game and earn her league-leading 16th victory of the season. The junior, currently ranked third in the country in total strikeouts, added eight punch outs in game two, extending her Peach Belt Conference lead to 192 strikeouts on the year.

Knight continued shine at the plate for the Saints, picking up two more hits in the nightcap and making it a 6-for-7 day at the dish for the doubleheader.

North Georgia will now hit the road for six straight Peach Belt Conference road games as the race for the regular season championship starts to heat up. The Saints travel to Georgia Southwestern on Friday evening, followed by a trip to Columbus State on Saturday as the league's top two teams battle for what could be the deciding series.