May 12, 2012

Saints Fight Back Late, Fall to Flagler in Super Regional Championship

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DAHLONEGA, GA – For the first time in four years the North Georgia softball team will not be representing the Southeast Region in the Division II College World Series, as they dropped game three of the NCAA Southeast Super Regional 4-1 in extra innings to Flagler on Saturday afternoon at The Hill.

North Georgia (49-10) lost their third extra inning contest of the season, while Flagler (39-18) earned their first-ever birth in NCAA Division II College World Series.

Melissa Dickie (21-1) suffered her first loss of the season tossing a complete game allowing all four Flagler runs, while scattering six hits and striking out three. Katie Enright (9-4) picked up the win tossing her seventh complete game of the season surrendering nine hits and striking out two.

North Georgia had plenty of scoring opportunities, but Enright worked her way out of jams all afternoon.

Flagler opened the scoring in the second capitalizing on a North Georgia error as Tori Jolley lined a single down the right field line to bring Breezy Collings charging home.

An inning later North Georgia was threatening as Pilar Harden and Rochelle Shuman hit back-to-back one-out singles. Enright would bear down forcing Hilary Cox to ground into a 5-3 double play to end the inning.

After allowing a run in the second, Dickie went into shutdown mode as she retired 11 straight Flagler batters before leadoff hitter Lauren Roudabush reached on a bunt single to open the sixth.

In the home-half of the fifth, North Georgia was on the attack again as Callie Fernandez and Pilar Harden hit back-to-back one out singles. Once again Enright would get herself out of the jam as Shuman and Cox grounded out to end the threat.

After retiring North Georgia in order in the sixth Enright ran into trouble as Tiffanie Burns started the rally with a leadoff double to right center. Fernandez then did her job by moving the runner over to third with a groundout to the right side. After a Harden walk, Shuman followed with the game tying sac fly.

Dickie would retire the first two batters in the eighth with relative ease before running into trouble as Flagler whacked three straight two-out hits to take the 4-1 lead. Robyn Draper provided what would prove to be the game-winning RBI as she laced a triple to right center that scored Lauren Ely.

Enright would retire the Saints in order in the bottom of the eighth to end North Georgia's season and their historic run in the Southeast region.

The senior class consisting of Hilary Cox, Pilar Harden and Jessica Coan certainly left their mark on what has become the premier softball program at the NCAA Division II level.

These seniors leave North Georgia with a 203-29 record, which is simply astonishing. They won three Peach Belt Conference championships and made it to the NCAA Division II College World Series in three out of four years.

The future still looks bright for the Saints however, as they will be returning six starters from a 49-win team. Included in those returnees will be PBC Freshman of the Year and Southeast Region Pitcher of the Year Melissa Dickie.

There will be key players coming off injury as well, as Victoria St. Clair and Kaitlyn Seabolt will return in good health.

Head coach Mike Davenport saw his freshman class grow up this season, as Dickie, Tiffanie Burns and Rochelle Shuman all played significant time this season.

The season may not have turned out the way the Saints team and staff had hoped it would, but it's not to be forgotten that North Georgia had made an appearance in three straight NCAA College World Series'.

As their attempt at a fourth straight fell short, credit should be given to Flagler College, who was all but essentially out of the postseason a few weeks ago until they saw their inclusion during the 2012 selection show.

Flagler was just the No. 7 seed in the NCAA Southeast Region, but went a run that saw them win five of their six games. During that stretch they knocked off the likes of No. 1-seed North Georgia, No. 2-seed Armstrong and the No. 3-seed Lenoir-Rhyne. The Saints should represent the Southeast Region and Peach Belt Conference well this coming week in Louisville, Kentucky.

Although replacing this senior class, which will go down as one of the best in the history of North Georgia, will not be easy; there is still some key players and talent on its way back to Dahlonega.

This year's leading hitter Karlie Gillam will return at third base, after hitting a team-high .329 at the plate. Gillam was All-Region and All-Conference this season, as she will return as the senior leader.

Also returning will be Kayla Minger, Sarah Johnson and Katherine Martin, all key contributors to one of the best teams in the country this season.