Patriots fall to top-ranked Saints 5-2 in NCAA sub-regional

Dahlonega, GA - From Francis Marion University

DAHLONEGA, GA – Top-ranked and top-seeded North Georgia College & State University pushed across three first-inning runs and went on to claim a 5-2 win over fourth-seeded Francis Marion University, Saturday afternoon (May 15) at the NCAA Division II Southeast Dahlonega Softball Regional at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.

The Saints (47-0) add two runs in the second to build a 5-0 advantage, and then relied on the right arm of undefeated pitcher Sarah Phillips (40-0) and some stellar defense.  The Saints advance to the subregional championship game.

The Patriots (34-15) fall into the losers' bracket.  Because rain washed out the remainder of Saturday's schedule, FMU will play again on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against the Queens University of Charlotte and Carson-Newman College survivor.

"They are a very good team, and we like to think we are too," said FMU coach Stacey Vallee. "It's constantly a good battle with them."

In the Saints' first, Laura Voyles lined a triple into the right field corner and scored on Courtney McGuire's deep sacrifice fly to left field. Katherine Martin made it 3-0 with a two-run single into the right field gap.

The margin grew to 5-0 on an RBI fielder's choice by McGuire and an RBI single by Leslee Smith.

FMU's Destinea Schneider broke up Phillips' no-hitter in the bottom of the third inning reaching on an infield single to start the inning. North Georgia catcher Natasha Willemse quickly erased Schneider, throwing her out on an attempted steal. Knight robbed Chelle Phillips of a hit by sprinting from shortstop into shallow left field to make a sliding catch along the left field line.

The Patriots reached Phillips for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Michaela Wolf singled to lead off the inning, and two batters later, Phillips left a pitch in the middle of the strike zone that junior Cea Knox hammered over the left field fence for a two-run shot. The home run was just the 10th allowed by Phillips this season.

Knox came on to pitch in relief of Wolf in the third and shut out the Saints. Knox didn't allow a hit until the top of the sixth when Voyles singled. The Saints loaded the bases with two outs but Knox got out of trouble when Smith flew out to deep center.

"We tried to keep going and Cea did a good job (of keeping us in the game)," said Vallee. "She has done well against them and she also hit a big bomb for us."

Things got interesting in the bottom of the seventh, but Phillips finished off the complete game to run her record to 40-0 on the season. Phillips struck out Meghan Heiser on a 3-2 inside fastball and got Jessica Hogan on a ground out to shortstop. After back-to-back hits by Schneider and Kat Beauvais, Phillips induced a shallow fly by Chelle Phillips that Pilar Harden collected to end the scoring threat and send the Saints to the championship round.

Phillips allowed two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks, while striking out five and lowering her earned run average to 1.10. Wolf (21-9) gave up five runs on six hits and a walk, but Knox kept the Patriots in the game with five solid innings of relief work. Knox allowed just one hit and walked four during her time in the circle.

Both teams finished the game with seven hits. Voyles led the North Georgia attack with three hits out of the leadoff spot.  Wolf and Schneider each had two hits for the Patriots, while Knox, Beauvais, and Jessica Birchmeier finished with a hit apiece.