May 22, 2010

50-0 Saints Headed Back to College World Series

Box Score | Video Replay

DAHLONEGA, GA – With one game standing between No. 1 North Georgia and the World Series, the Saints erupted in the fifth inning for 10 runs on their way to a 15-0 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne, capturing the Southeast Super Regional for the second straight season at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.

The Saints advance to the Division II College World Series as the nation’s No. 1 team for the second straight year, heading to St. Joseph, Missouri, as one of eight teams remaining in the country. The National Championships begin with four opening-round games on Thursday at Heritage Park.

North Georgia’s improbable run to the World Series will go down in history as one of the best stories in NCAA softball history. Currently at 50-0, the Saints stake claim to their second straight 50-win season, and third in the program’s 14-year history, while assuring the club’s best-ever winning percentage.

While North Georgia has been the nation’s No. 1 team for 80 straight days dating back to the first regular season poll of the year on March 3, the Saints have been tested along with the way with a 10-0 mark against teams ranked in the top 25, and a 9-0 mark against clubs in nation’s top 10.

Since becoming eligible for postseason play in the NCAA Division II ranks, North Georgia has advanced to the NCAA Tournament every season, making three straight appearances on the national scene with two trips to the World Series, and an all-time mark of 15-4 in the NCAA Tournament.

Four seniors played in their final game at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Laura Voyles, Jessica Skeels, Courtney McGuire, and Leslee Smith will go out as the second winningest class in school history, currently sitting at 174 wins.

Lenoir-Rhyne’s run to one of the top teams in the country comes to an end as the Bears fall to 53-9 on the year and drop consecutive games for just the second time this season. The Bears advanced to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament in 2010, and currently sit at 8-12 all-time in NCAA Regional action.

The championship game was scoreless until the third inning when Kasey Knight led off and coaxed a walk to reach base and Lauren Dykes Followed and drilled a double down the left field line, sending Knight racing all the way around to third.

Courtney McGuire followed and lined a double into the left field corner, plating Knight and Dykes to break the scoreless tie and give the Saints a 2-0 advantage.

North Georgia continued their rally in the fourth inning with three more runs, capped by a two-run triple by Knight to send Natasha Willemse and Katherine Martin home and stretch the lead to 5-0.

Knight and the Saints continued to add runs in the fifth inning as the shortstop poked a single through the left side with two outs to plate Pilar Harden and make it 7-0, but the Saints were just getting started as the bats caught fire to plate eight more runs and route the Bears 15-0.

Dykes got the party started with a three-run blast to straight away center, and Leslee Smith followed two batters and planted a two-run bomb halfway up the mountain in left field. Harden and Willemse tacked on RBI hits later in the frame to cap a 10-run fifth inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Bears were retired in order as Brandu Haithcock struck out looking to start the frame, and after Tameron Sealey popped out, Brittany Cherry grounded out to Katherine Martin at first base to send North Georgia players into eruption in the pitcher’s circle.

Sarah Phillips improved to 43-0 on the year with the victory, as Lenoir-Rhyne was shutout for the first time this season. The junior tossed 5.0 innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits while striking out seven of the 19 batters she faced.

The Saints will now make travel arrangements as they prepare to fly to St. Joseph, Missouri, on Tuesday in preparation for their opening game of the World Series on Thursday against East Super Regional winner Molloy College out of Rockville Centre, New York.