No. 3 Saints Slide Past Patriots to End Regular Season
DAHLONEGA, GA – The 3rd-ranked North Georgia softball team ended the 2011 regular season in style on Monday afternoon, sweeping away Francis Marion 2-1 and 6-1 at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium in Peach Belt Conference action.
A day after learning a loss by Columbus State sealed the Saints' third straight PBC Championship, North Georgia never let up, sweeping the Patriots to improve to 43-9 overall and end the regular season at 17-3 in the Peach Belt Conference.
Francis Marion's season comes to an end as they fall short of the 2011 PBC Tournament, ending the year at 24-21-1 overall, 7-13 in league action, and one game out of the eighth and final spot in the tournament.
With USC Aiken winning a pair of games on Monday afternoon, UNC Pembroke slides into the eighth and final spot in the PBC Tournament and will face North Georgia on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. at Freedom Florence Park.
The Saints will be looking to earn their third straight PBC Tournament championship as they are 12-2 all-time in the tournament and have won eight straight games at the event over the last two years. North Georgia has played in the title game each of the last three years, falling to Georgia College in 2008, before taking down USC Aiken in 2009, and Francis Marion in 2010.
On Monday afternoon, game one was scoreless and hitless until the second inning when Chelle Phillips took the third pitch she saw and drilled a solo home run to left field to send the Patriots out to a 1-0 lead.
The Saints were held without a hit until the fourth inning when Pilar Harden connected on a double to left center with two outs, and Katherine Martin followed and sent a base knock up the middle to send Harden racing home and knot the score at 1-1.
The score stayed deadlocked until the bottom of the seventh inning when Kayla Martin led off and blasted a solo home run to left center, putting the Saints in front for good and sending North Georgia to a 2-1 game-one victory.
Jessica Coan (22-4) picked up the win with her 21st complete game of the season, as she tallied her 15th game of 10 or more strikeouts after fanning 11 Patriot batters. Kayla Ellingsen (11-8) was the tough-luck loser, allowing two runs and striking out four in 6.0 innings of work.
The nightcap featured another stellar pitching performance as Sarah Phillips stifled the Francis Marion lineup and tossed a no-hitter in the final regular season game of her collegiate career.
Francis Marion did scrape together a run in the first inning as a leadoff walk led to a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly to send Destinea Scheider home and give the Patriots a 1-0 lead once again.
The lead would be short lived however, as the Saints came out firing in the bottom of the first inning with three straight singles, followed by a fielder's choice and a fielding error to give North Georgia a 4-0 lead. An errant throw later in the frame brought Katherine Martin racing home and capped the five-run first inning.
The Saints added a single run in the fourth inning on a Kasey Knight groundout, and Phillips did the rest, shutting down the Patriots and striking out five to improve to 17-4 on the season.