Playing at home for only the second day in nearly a month on Sunday, April 2- the result a doubleheader sweep of Lander University – the Nighthawks are nearing the end of their season-long journey, and seem to be gathering momentum at just the right time.
“I think obviously being at home hopefully will help us a little bit down the homestretch this last month or so of the regular season, but it’s a young group, and we’re still trying to figure out who we are and who goes where,” head coach Mike Davenport said.
But the “inexperience and youth” hasn’t shown recently as the team won its fifth and sixth consecutive games.
Game one of the doubleheader proved to be a battle which the Nighthawks won 3-2, thanks to a solo home run from Jordan Deep in the bottom of the fourth inning that put the Nighthawks ahead for good. After getting out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning off a two-run home run from Kaylyn Anthony, the Bearcats were finally able to respond in the top of the fourth inning with a two-run single, tying the game, 2-2. Just four pitches into the bottom half of the inning, Deep led off the inning with the eventual winning run. The two runs were Kylee Smith’s only blemish on the day, as she earned her 19th win of the season with the performance.
A very different second leg of the doubleheader took place, as a run-rule shortened affair gave Amber Johns her eighth win of the season and the Nighthawks their 33rd, by a score of 9-1.
After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, Johns shut the door on the Bearcats, only allowing three other baserunners for the remainder of her outing, before giving way to Bria Bush who threw a perfect sixth inning.
Lander surrendered their newly acquired lead in the bottom of the first, a double dropped just inside the third base line for Sydney Sprague to lead off the inning, and another double to left field by Alisha Frierson two batters later resulted in a tied game. Anthony knocked in her third run of the day with the Nighthawks’ third double of the inning, also down the line in left field to give UNG a 2-1 lead.
The team continued to pile on runs, finishing the game on a throwing error that scored Kaycie Oakley for the game clinching run.
The biggest challenge for the Nighthawks will be to continue this momentum throughout the remainder of the regular season.
“You know some kids are starting to get hot, but we’ve also got some kids that the challenge of college softball is starting to catch up to them, so we’ve got to learn to push through it, physically and mentally as well,” Davenport said. “With the responsibilities of the education and bus trips and stuff like that it adds to a kid’s experience but it’s also a grind to get through it. It’s just maturity, our seniors know how to handle it because they know how to take care of their bodies a little bit better and their academics and stuff but it’s a lot on our freshmen and we’re asking a lot of them right now.”