SALEM, Va. - North Georgia College & State University's softball team faced an early 3-0 deficit on Thursday evening against 11th-ranked Indiana (Pa.), but the Saints rallied with nine unanswered runs to storm back and take a 9-4 victory on the opening day of the Division II World Series at the Salem Sports complex in Salem, Va.
The Saints improve to 53-10 overall on the year, and are now a perfect 3-0 all-time in the opening round of the College World Series. Indiana (Pa.) falls to 38-7 in their first-ever appearance in the National Championships.
With the win, North Georgia will now advance in the winner's bracket and will take on Alabama-Huntsville/Midwestern State at 11:30 Friday morning.
The Crimson Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks in part to a two-run first inning and a two-run single from Kristen Tunno's single to right field.
Indiana (Pa.) added to its margin in the second when Taylor Rozantz scored as Dee Eppinger reached on an error.
The Saints evened things in the third when Natasha Willemse led things off with a walk and promptly moved to third base when freshman Ansley Williams drilled a pitch to the gap in right center.
Kasey Knight follow with a groundout to plate a run, and with two outs, Pilar Harden blasted a two-run homer over the center field fence, knotting the game at 3-3.
For Harden, the junior slugger has now homered in four consecutive games, dating back to the opening game of the Southeast Super Regional.
The Lady Saints took their first lead of the game in the fifth inning when Willemse again led things off, this time reaching on a bunt.
Williams would once again provide the offense, following with a double to left field, and with the bases loaded and two outs, Harden drilled a double up the middle to plate two more runs and give the Saints a 5-3 advantage, a lead they would never relinquish.
The offense erupted in the sixth inning, scoring four runs on five hits, highlighted by a solo home run off the bat of Hilary Cox, a 260-foot shot over the wall in left field to give the junior her 13th home run of the year.
The Crimson Hawks pushed across a run in the seventh but could not complete the comeback.
Sarah Phillips (21-5) came in for Jessica Coan to pick up the win for the Saints, allowing just one hit and striking out three in four innings of relief work.
Erin Holloway (27-4) went the distance for the Crimson Hawks and suffered the loss, allowing 10 hits and all nine North Georgia runs.