Division II Super Regional
Lenoir-Rhyne at North Georgia
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium, Dahlonega
Tickets: $6 for adults, $4 for children
Online: Follow the action live at www.saintssports.com
DAHLONEGA - Jessica Coan and Ansley Williams were both paying attention to the success of the North Georgia College & State University softball team last year, even though neither were students at the school or members of the team.
Now, Coan, a junior transfer from Georgia Tech, and Williams, a freshman outfielder, are leaders this season for the Lady Saints (50-9) as they make a third consecutive appearance in the Division II Super Regionals.
"I've never been on a team this successful before," Williams said. "The success the team had in the past is what attracted me to come here to North Georgia."
Last season, Coan was paying attention online with the rest of the Lady Yellow Jackets as North Georgia made it all the way to the Division II College World Series with a 50-0 record.
And as a high school senior at Adairsville, Williams traveled to watch some games the Lady Saints played at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium in Dahlonega.
But this is a new year at North Georgia. The top four hitters in the Lady Saints' batting order last year graduated, but the season's success has stayed pretty much the same.
North Georgia hosts Lenoir-Rhyne University in a best-of-three Super Regional Series beginning at 6 p.m. Friday in Dahlonega. The school is asking fans to where white for a "White Out." With a win, the Lady Saints advance to the Division II College World Series beginning May 26 in Salem, Va.
"This is the culmination of a lot of hard work this team has put in this season and a tribute to how hard they are willing to work," Lady Saints coach Mike Davenport said. "We're extremely fortunate to be able to play in our facility and in front of our fans this weekend."
North Georgia qualified for the Super Regionals with an 8-0 win against Erskine last Friday in the Southeastern Regionals, followed by a pair of wins against Flager College as part of its current 12-game winning streak.
Williams feels like riding a double-digit win streak into this weekend, where a trip to the College World Series is on the line, helps give the team an added bit of confidence.
Just like the confidence boost of getting to play at home.
In Dahlonega, the Lady Saints know the crowd will tilt in their favor.
They also know the layout of the field and how to play the bounces without even having to think about it.
Also, they get to sleep in their own beds at night, just like they would during any other homestand.
"There's pros and cons of playing at home," Davenport said. "Sometimes when you're playing on the road it's easier to have the full attention of the team."
However, with so many new players on this year's squad, Davenport isn't going to know how the players will react until hitting the field.
Along with four new hitters at the top of the order, the Lady Saints have four new every day starters once the lineup after some trial and error early in the season.
Then there were the three injuries that North Georgia had to work its way around, which is especially taxing on a team with only 15 players.
Early in the season, freshman second baseman Sarah Johnson missed 15 games with an injury to her leg, then third baseman Hilary Cox went down on April 3 against Columbus State with a broken foot.
Sophomore outfielder Victoria St. Clair was the latest to go down after breaking her thumb late in the regular season.
The most significant move that Davenport made to compensate for the injuries was moving Williams to left field and into the leadoff position in the batting order.
She responded by hitting .345 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs to date, and was named to the Peach Belt Conference All-Region team.
Team chemistry went a long way too for the Lady Saints to making it back to the Super Regional stage.
"The team chemistry is awesome," Coan said. "It's helps a lot that we all get along as well as we do."
Pitching has been the biggest consistency for the Lady Saints all season. Coan (26-4, 0.77 ERA), 2010 Peach Belt Pitcher of the Year Sarah Phillips (20-4, 1.44) and Krysten Connelly (4-1, 1.51) have done a good job keeping the team in every game it plays this season.
"We have three young ladies with different styles on the mound, which is a huge advantage for our team," Davenport said.