OKLAHOMA CITY — The University of North Georgia softball team used timely hitting, combined with a strong performance in the circle by NFCA National Pitcher of the Year Courtney Poole, to win the school’s first-ever national championship with a 5-0 victory over Dixie State on Monday in the NCAA Division II softball national title game.
The team also set a program best for wins in a season, finishing the year at 54-8.
“It’s amazing. It’s indescribable to go out like this,” UNG senior shortstop Tiffanie Burns said. “You never want it to end. To go out with a national championship is just unbelievable. The girls that I’ve got to play with were a blessing and I appreciate every single one of them.”
The Nighthawks took control of the game in the bottom of the second inning, putting up four runs on six hits. Jessica Finch started the inning with a single up the middle and was then pinch run for by Hannah McSwain. Katie Block followed with a single down the left-field line to put two runners on with no one out. After a strikeout, Meredith Heyer singled into left field with the ball rolling off the left fielder’s glove, allowing McSwain and Block to come in to score to give UNG the lead, 2-0.
Taylor Anne Merritt drove a one-out single up the middle to put runners on the corners, advancing Heyer to third. After Merritt was called out attempting to steal second base, Meagan May put down a bunt single for a RBI, scoring Heyer from third. The Red Storm pitched around Kim McMillan, but Burns made them pay with a RBI single to right to bring home May from second and extend the North Georgia lead to 4-0.
UNG added a big insurance run in the fifth as Block drew a one-out walk but was retired at second on a sacrifice bunt attempt that was too hot putting Alexis Collis on first by way of the fielder’s choice. Heyer gave Collis plenty of time to score from first base though as she lined a double off the wooden fence of Heath Field that bounced back past the Dixie State left fielder. The run gave UNG the 5-0 lead that proved final.
Poole (47-4), the National Player and Pitcher of the Year, put together a two-hit shutout performance in the title game. The two hits were the only base runners of the day for Dixie State as Poole did not allow any free passes on the day. The UNG ace struck out four.
The NCAA National Championship is the first in school history at the University of North Georgia and is the 35th in the Peach Belt Conference and the third in softball. A PBC team had not won the softball title since 1996.
The North Georgia softball team will return to Georgia Tuesday evening. UNG will arrive at the South Terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at approximately 9:15 p.m. Fans are encouraged to welcome the team back to Dahlonega with a celebration at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium at 10:30 p.m.