A record 20-run performance by the Nighthawks’ offense in the final game of the weekend concluded a four-game sweep of the Captain D’s Classic, as North Georgia’s No. 8 ranked softball team cruised to a pair of victories over Shepherd University and Seton Hill University on Sunday.
Freshman Shelby Hammontree led the record-breaking charge in the finale with three home runs and two doubles, compiling five RBIs in five at-bats. Hammontree’s three home runs established a new school record for home runs in a game.
Head coach Mike Davenport credited the offensive output to his batters’ approach at the plate.
“Obviously the result was good, but I was more pleased with the approach that our hitters had throughout the day,” Davenport said. “I thought they swung at good pitches, they stayed in their zone and worked ahead in the count themselves.”
Of the Nighthawks’ 20 hits in the game, 12 went for extra bases. Over the four-game stretch, the team smashed 29 extra base hits resulting in 49 runs.
North Georgia’s offense started early on Sunday, as junior Sydney Sprague and senior Stephanie Hartness hit back-to-back home runs to lead off the first game. The Nighthawks went on to score in every inning they batted in, totaling eight runs in just five innings.
UNG then matched its first game run total in the first inning against Seton Hill University, as the team batted around for eight runs. Once again the game only lasted five innings and once again the Nighthawks scored in every inning they batted. Sophomore Jordan Deep hit her second home run of the season in the fourth inning and knocked in the final run in the fifth with a RBI sacrifice fly, scoring the team’s 20th run and breaking the team record for most runs scored in a single game since joining the NCAA in 2006. The team finished the day with six home runs and ten doubles between the two games.
Unfortunately for their opponents, the bats of UNG were not the only high point, as the team only allowed nine runs across the four-game event.
In Sunday’s first game, freshman pitcher Kylee Smith struck out seven batters in just four innings, as she and fellow freshman Amber Johns shutout Shepherd University in an 8-0 victory. Smith was credited with the win, improving her record to 8-1. Sophomore Bria Bush and freshman Amber Garrett held Seton Hill University to four runs in the final game of the weekend, with Garrett earning the first win of her collegiate career.
“The biggest thing that our pitchers are understanding right now is that they have to move the ball and they have to hit location,” Davenport said. “The kids played hard and I thought some of our young pitching threw well.”
Baserunning also played a large part in the team’s success, especially in Sunday’s first game against Shepherd University. The Nighthawks were alert and aggressive on the base paths, applying additional pressure on the defense. Runners often trapped the Shepherd defense into making erred throws or providing a distraction, allowing other base runners to advance. The strategy paid off as the Nighthawks forced two errors, both coming in the second inning.
“That’s a big part of who we are and that’s something that we emphasize and work on,” Davenport said. “It’s tough to get kids to buy into it, because there’s a lot of failure that comes into it because you get thrown out a lot.”
The weekend was very successful for the Nighthawks, improving their record to 14-4 overall and 10-0 at “The Hill.” The team will look to continue their success in Orlando as they participate in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, starting on Friday, Feb. 24.