No. 1 ranked Nighthawks win PBC Championship

After breaking the North Georgia record of 55 wins in a season, the UNG softball team won their fifth straight Peach Belt Conference tournament behind dominant offensive and pitching performances.

UNG won two games on Saturday, May 5 to secure the Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship for the fifth consecutive year. (Photo by Drew Hubbard)

“What they’ve done so far this season is unchartered territory for us,” head coach Mike Davenport said. “They’ve accomplished something that no other program here has done.”

The scoring came quick for the Nighthawks in Game 1, who were able to score six runs in the bottom of the first started off by a inside-the-park home run by junior third basemen Marley Stowers to take a 1-0 lead against Georgia Southwestern State.

The single run would prove to be enough for sophomore pitcher Amber Johns who threw a complete game shutout while striking out eight Hurricane hitters.

UNG continued to scorn Hurricane pitching, as catcher Shelby Hammontree plated two runs off a double to center field. Hammontree would eventually come around to score off a double from sophomore Lexi Duncan. Duncan would later score of a throwing error by Georgia Southwestern to make the score 5-0 for the home side.

Shelby Hammontree high-fives her teammates after scoring on a Lexi Duncan double during Game 1 of the PBC tournament on May 4. (Photo by Drew Hubbard)

Senior Sydney Sprague would add on to the scoring, ripping a double to score infielder Jordan Deep to give the Nighthawks a 6-0 lead. Back to back singles from Kaylyn Anthony and Hammontree would set up Duncan to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning. However, the Hurricanes defense once again committed a costly error to allow two runs to score and bringing the game to an 8-0 end in five innings.

The North Georgia offense was quick to return for Day 2 of the 2018 PBC tournament against Lander University as Deep began the scoring courtesy of a solo home run in the bottom portion of the second to make the score line 1-0. Senior Brittany Gilliam kept the offense rolling with a RBI double, followed by a run scoring single by Alishia Frierson to bring the score to 3-0.

Duncan continued the Nighthawks rally, hitting a RBI double followed by a single by Sprague to conclude a five run third inning. Sprague would cap off another run rule victory by sending a two-run home run over the center field wall to get a 8-0 win.

UNG pitcher Kylee Smith had a dominant day in the circle, allowing only two hits through 12 innings, as she pitched both the semi-finals and the finals of the PBC championship for the Nighthawks. (Photo by Drew Hubbard)

The runs would prove to be more than enough for dominant sophomore pitcher Kylee Smith. Smith would throw five complete innings while only allowing one hit for the Bearcat offense.

North Georgia’s victory via run rule would prove to be beneficial for Game 3, allowing Smith to take the ball in the PBC Championship against Columbus State University.

“She wasn’t really on a pitch count,” Davenport said. “But we were ready to go to the bullpen because we felt like we wanted to start her against Columbus.”

The Nighthawks struck first in the third inning of Game 3, coming off Sprague’s second home run of the day to give UNG a 2-0 lead. The North Georgia offense remained quiet until the sixth inning, when Hammontree improved on an already impressive weekend by hitting a two-run home run to give Smith some insurance runs heading into the final frame.

“Those last two runs were insurance runs,” Smith said. “It made me feel better and I was more confident on the mound to get those last three outs.”

Smith and the North Georgia defense were able to secure the last three outs needed to win their fifth straight PBC Championship.

The top ranked Nighthawks now turn their focus to the regional stage of the NCAA Division II Tournament, where they will host the Southeast 1 region of the bracket in Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.

Sydney Sprague smiles as she rounds the bases after a home run during Day 2 of the PBC championship on May 5. (Photo by Drew Hubbard)

“I’m having so much fun with this team,” Sprague said. “We’re just going to keep on riding until we get to our goal.”

UNG will attempt to continue on an already impressive season when they host King University at 2 p.m. in Dahlonega on May 10.

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