January 22, 2010

Saints Softball Dominates Preseason All-PBC Team

AUGUSTA, GA – The Peach Belt Conference released the league’s 11-member preseason softball All-Conference team on Friday afternoon, and as expected, North Georgia dominated the squad with six members as the Saints get set for the 2010 season.

Six of the 11 softball-member schools were represented in the team, while North Georgia was front and center with six members just one day after being selected to repeat as Peach Belt Conference Champions this season.

Laura Voyles was selected at second base, Hilary Cox at Catcher, Courtney McGuire and Pilar Harden were tabbed as outfielders, while Sarah Phillips was picked in the circle, and Leslee Smith rounded out the field at the designated player position.

Laura Voyles guided the Saints to their historic season with a .335 batting average, recording seven home runs, 28 runs batted in, and 51 runs scored from the leadoff position. She kept North Georgia alive in their first game of the Division II College World Series, tying the game in the bottom of the seventh with a two-strike, two-out, three-run blast that tied the game, a contest the Saints came away winners in the 10th inning.

Turning into one of the most clutch hitters during the Saints’ 2009 postseason run, freshman catcher Hilary Cox was named to the PBC All-Tournament team and Dahlonega Regional All-Tournament team. Cox hit .475 during postseason play in 2009, posting 19 hits and driving in nine runs while recording a pair of home runs while only striking out once. During the season, the Douglasville, Ga., native hit .338 with six home runs, 31 runs batted in and a slugging percentage of .550.

A 2009 NFCA First-Team All-American, First-Team All-Region, and First-Team Peach Belt All-Conference selection, Courtney McGuire hit .354 last season with 12 home runs, 48 runs batted in, and 11 doubles. The senior led the Peach Belt in runs scored with 58, and was second in runs batted in and home runs. McGuire sent the Saints to their first-ever NCAA World Series victory last season, belting her 12th home run of the season in the 10th inning, a two-run blast to left field to give the Saints a 5-3 walk-off victory over Dixie State. She sported an on base percentage of .452 and had a .689 slugging percentage while committing just two errors in right field for a .967 fielding percentage.

A First-Team Peach Belt All-Conference and First-Team All-Southeast Region performer, Pilar Harden hit .343 during her freshman season with 39 runs batted in and six home runs. She was sixth in the PBC with 97 total bases, and was a perfect 9-9 in stolen base attempts. As a true freshman, Harden played and started in all 55 games for the Saints, recording an on base percentage of .368, while adding a slugging percentage of .545. She had 14 doubles and two triples in her 61 total hits.

The 2009 PBC Pitcher of the Year and Southeast Region Pitcher of the Year, Sarah Phillips established herself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the nation after being named an NFCA First-Team All-American in 2009. The sophomore finished the season second in the country with 39 wins, putting together a 36-game winning streak that stretched more than three months and included a perfect game in the PBC Tournament, and a no-hitter to clinch the Dahlonega Regional Championship. She posted an earned run average of 1.39 and a record of 39-3 while tossing 32 complete games and striking out 260 batters in 271 innings of work. She walked just 38 batters and was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2009 PBC Tournament and 2009 Dahlonega Regional.

A First-Team Peach Belt All-Conference and First-Team All-Southeast Region performer, Leslee Smith hit .365 with nine home runs and 55 runs batted in. She had an 18-game hitting streak during the season, and had five games with three runs batted in, and a pair of games where she drove in five runs. The junior struck out just 14 times on the season and added 12 doubles and nine home runs to her 62 hits. Smith was fourth in the conference in total bases with 101, and had an on base percentage of .416 and a slugging percentage of .594.

After completing their most successful season in school history that saw the club claim the top ranking in the nation before advancing to the program’s first-ever World Series, the Saints return a group of key players from a year ago and will look to repeat as Peach Belt Champions, PBC Tournament Champions, and Southeast Regional Champions.

North Georgia opens the season at home the second week of February, hosting the Captain D’s Classic and welcoming Northern Kentucky, Valdosta State, and Delta State to town for the weekend.

The Saints will open their defense of the Peach Belt Conference regular season championship with a road trip to Francis Marion and UNC Pembroke the first week in March.

2010 Peach Belt Conference Preseason Softball All-Conference Team

1b – Nicole Huddleston, Armstrong Atlantic State
2b – Laura Voyles, North Georgia
3b – Jelena Shaw, UNC Pembroke
SS – Kacee Camp, Augusta State
C – Hilary Cox, North Georgia
OF – Courtney McGuire, North Georgia
OF – Pilar Harden, North Georgia

OF – Jessica Birchmeier, Francis Marion
P – Sarah Phillips, North Georgia
P – Toni Flessate, USC Aiken
DP – Leslee Smith, North Georgia