March 11, 2011

#2 Saints Split Doubleheader with Feisty Pioneer Squad

DAHLONEGA, GA – The North Georgia softball team welcome Tusculum College to town on Friday afternoon and dropped a controversial game one, before battling back and taking the second game 4-1 at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium in non-conference action.

The game one loss snapped North Georgia's 40-game home winning streak, a mark that stretched three seasons and dated back to the final home game of the 2008 season. The Saints move to 21-3 on the season with the doubleheader split, while the Pioneers move to 18-5 on the year.

A pitcher's duel was the story of the opening game, as both teams were held scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when Natasha Willemse reached on a fielder's choice. After the play, Willemse forced herself into a rundown between first and second, allowing Kayla Martin to slide home safely for the first run of the game.

Jessica Coan was cruising on the mound early for the Saints, recording strikeouts for eight of the first nine outs and had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning when Savannah Ewing guided a two-out single through the right side, but was left stranded to end the frame.

Coan was three outs away from shutting down Tusculum in game one, but Ashley Burke had different plans as she led off seventh inning and lined a two-strike pitch just over the fence in straight-away centerfield, deadlocking the score at 1-1.

The international tiebreaker was put into effect in the eighth inning and the Pioneers took advantage in their half of the frame, as Ewing stroked a two-out single to left field, plating Paige Sneed and giving the Tusculum a 2-1 edge.

North Georgia had their chance in the bottom of the eighth, and after Willemse was placed on second to start the inning, Ansley Williams lined a single to left field but was thrown out trying to advance to second.

Kasey Knight then stepped to the plate and flied out to left field sending Willemse home after tagging at third base. After apparently sliding in safely to tie the game, Tusculum appealed that Willemse left early and the play was overturned, abruptly ending the game and giving the Pioneers a 2-1 victory in eight innings.

Coan (8-2) was tagged with the loss, allowing just four hits and one earned run over 8.0 innings, while striking out 16 batters. Erin Searcy (8-4) picked up the win in all 8.0 innings of work, allowing a run on six hits and striking out a pair.

The Saints would take of business in the final game of day however, scoring a single run in the fourth, two more in the fifth, and one run in the sixth to escape with a 4-1 victory and doubleheader split.

Sarah Phillips (9-1) shut down Tusculum for the win, surrendering just four hits and one unearned run, while striking out six and not walking a single batter. Katherine Martin provided the offense with a pair of RBI singles in the game, while Willemse and Knight were also credited with run scoring base knocks as part of a two-run fifth frame.

The Pioneers scored their only run of the contest on a dropped fly ball in the outfield, allowing Taylor McDonald to scamper home, but the Saints held off Tusculum late and salvaged the doubleheader split.

Elizabeth Johnson suffered her first loss of the year in circle for the Pioneers, falling to 9-1 on the year as the sophomore allowed four runs on seven hits, while walking one and striking out five.

The Saints return to action on Saturday afternoon, welcoming 3rd-ranked Valdosta State and 4th-ranked Alabama-Huntsville to town for day one of the Captain D's Classic. North Georgia will take on the Blazers at 2:00 p.m., followed by the Chargers at 6:00 p.m. Tusculum will stay in town and take part in the Captain D's Classic as well, opposing the Gulf South Conference duo at 12-noon and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.