FLORENCE, SC – The 3rd-ranked North Georgia softball team used a Katherine Martin three-run home run in the sixth inning on Sunday afternoon to defeat Augusta State 5-2 and send the Saints to their third straight Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship.
The tournament championship is the third straight for the Saints, who are now 16-2 all-time in the PBC Tournament, including 12 straight victories over the last three years. North Georgia improves to 47-9 overall on the year, and receives an automatic bid into the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Southeast Regionals will take place May 13-15, at a location to be announced at a later date. Augusta State moves to 34-18 on the year and will await word from the NCAA on an at-large berth to the tournament.
Having won four straight games to reach the championship, Augusta State jumped on top in the first inning on Sunday when Kacey Sims drew a one-out walk and was singled to second by Jessica Thornton. Kristen Jones then sent a grounder back to Saints pitcher Sarah Phillips, who gunned down Sims at third, but the relay to get Thornton at second got away and she scored the unearned run.
North Georgia answered right back in the first inning with a two-out rally, as Sarah Johnson singled to left, and Pilar Harden followed and drilled the third pitch she saw over the fence in left field, her second two-run blast of the tournament to put the Saints in front 2-1.
The Jaguars tied the game in the top of the third as Thornton reached down on a sinking 0-2 changeup and lifted it over the left-center field fence to tie the game at two.
Following the ASU homer in the third, Sarah Phillips (19-4) shut the lights off on the ASU hitters, setting down the next six batters she faced and only allowing one baserunner until the seventh inning.
North Georgia started the bottom of the sixth inning off with a Johnson walk and Harden single. ASU made the move to bring in Heather Hughes to pitch, and Katherine Martin pulled the trigger on the first pitch from Hughes and smacked a three-run shot over the fence in left field for what turned out to be the game-winning runs.
ASU threatened in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs for Thornton, but Phillips ended the game with a swinging strikeout.
Phillips struck out seven in her six innings, walking three and allowing one earned run. Headrick (17-6) took the loss for ASU with four earned runs and no strikeouts in five innings of work.
Harden was the only North Georgia player with multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Johnson also scored twice with a hit and a walk.
April Jowers - Armstrong Atlantic
Megan Barnwell - Armstrong Atlantic
Donna Munafo - Flagler
Alona Personius - Flagler
Kristen Jones - Augusta State
Jessica Thornton, Augusta State
Emily Headrick - Augusta State
Katherine Martin - North Georgia
Pilar Harden - North Georgia
Ansley Williams - North Georgia