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Lady Saints holding a pair of aces
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Division II softball tournament

North Georgia vs. Erskine

When: 7 tonight

Where: Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium, Dahlonega

DAHLONEGA - Last season North Georgia softball pitcher Sarah Phillips won more than 50 games and was named the Peach Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season. This season, Phillips only has 19 wins and most likely will not win her third straight PBC award.

And that's just fine with her.

"With scouting reports being so detailed, most teams knew what I was going to throw last season," said Phillips. "And they always knew what to expect because it was going to be me on the mound. But this season we have Jessica."

When Jessica Coan transferred from Georgia Tech to North Georgia in the fall of 2010 to pursue a degree in education, the school got an excellent student, and the softball team got a 20-game winner. Coan (24-4) has compiled a 0.78 earned run average in a litte more than 187 innings pitched this season, while compiling 294 strikeouts and 23 complete games.

In turn, North Georgia (47-9, 17-3 PBC) steamrolled through the season to earn the right to host its third-straight NCAA Division II softball regional, set to begin at 5 p.m. today at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium in Dahlonega.

Coan said the switch from attending school in the chaos of downtown Atlanta to the slow-paced city of Dahlonega was made easier by her teammates and the community.

"Everybody was friendly," Coan said. "It's a small town and softball's kind of a big deal, so the team and the whole north Georgia community was really welcoming."

Phillips credits the fact that Coan came in at the beginning of the season for the relative ease of her adjustment.

"She wasn't the only new person with freshman and other new people, so she got to start at the beginning," Phillips said.

Despite being the focus of the team for the past two seasons, Phillips (19-4) expressed no regret on her reduced role and Coan's performance.

"It's great because the other team doesn't know what we're going to throw at the them," said Phillips, who has an ERA of 1.38 with 125 strikeouts this season. "(Coan) and I throw differently, and usually even we don't know who's going to pitch until right before the game, so whoever we're playing won't be able to know for sure what they're going to see."

Lady Saints coach Mike Davenport also believes that variety in the circle will be a big advantage for his team heading into the NCAA tournament.

"It's definitely a plus to have options; to be able to put two quality pitchers out there is a blessing," Davenport said. "It's a tremendous difference, and they are different enough from each other that, to be effective, they just have to pitch to their strengths.

"I think that'll give us a chance to win some games (in the tournament)."

Top-seeded North Georgia takes on eighth-seeded Erskine at 7 tonight in Dahlonega to open play in the NCAA regional. The winner of regional will advance to the NCAA Super Regional from May 20-21, with the Super Regional Champion advancing to the NCAA Division II College World Series from May 26-30 at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va.


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