DAHLONEGA — With North Georgia starting catcher Hilary Cox missing her college graduation last Saturday morning to play in game three of the NCAA Southeast Softball Regional, the university gave the senior standout her own private graduation at home plate.
Just before first pitch, North Georgia president Dr. Bonita Jacobs, Dr. Robert Fuller, Dr. Richard Oates, Dr. Pat Donat, Col. Tom Palmer and Mac McConnell led a processional on the field to perform a formal graduation for the student-athlete.
With a near-capacity crowd on hand to watch the 11th-ranked Lady Saints take on Columbus State with a trip to the Super Regional on the line, Cox received her diploma with her teammates looking on, her opponents respectively watching and 500 fans applauding as the Douglasville native moved her tassel from right to left.
Since her arrival on campus at North Georgia in the fall of 2008, Cox has helped lead the Lady Saints to three straight National Championship appearances and 202 wins. Off the field, Cox, a Business Management major, has been named to the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll, earned Peach Belt All-Academic honors and garnered All-American Scholar Athlete honors.
A member of the North Georgia Student Athlete Advisory Committee for the last three years, Cox has ascended to the top of NCAA Division II as the National SAAC President, representing more than 450,000 Division II athletes across the country.
An hour and 24 minutes after Cox was handed her diploma, North Georgia mounted a thrilling seventh-inning rally, scoring two runs to walk off with a 2-1 victory over Columbus State, propelling the Saints to the NCAA Southeast Super Regionals for the fourth consecutive year.
The top-seeded Saints (48-8) will play host to Flagler (37-17) in a best-of-three series, with one game on Friday evening and one or two on Saturday. All games will be played at Haines and Carolyn Hill Stadium in Dahlonega.
The first game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday evening, with the games on Saturday scheduled for 2 and, if necessary, 4:30 p.m.
North Georgia will be the home team Friday, with Flagler being the home team in Game 2. The two teams will flip a coin to decide home and away if a Game 3 is played.
The Saints split with Flagler on March 13 in St. Augustine, Fla. North Georgia took game one 6-2 with Jessica Coan picking up the win, while Flagler took game two 7-0 on a masterful performance by Donna Munafo.
The winner will clinch a spot in the 2012 NCAA Division II College World Series to be played May 16-19 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Tickets for this weekend will be $6 per session for adults and $4 for students. Children under the age of 3 will be admitted for free.