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Lady Saints win Game 1 in Super Regional
North Georgia’s Katherine Martin connects on a home run during the Lady Saints’ win over Lenoir-Rhyne on Friday in Dahlonega. The Lady Saints took Game 1 of the best-of-three series 5-3. They need one win today to advance to the NCAA Division II World Series.
DAHLONEGA — The No.1 North Georgia College & State University softball team remained unbeaten Friday night, knocking off No. 8 Lenoir-Rhyne, 5-3, in Game 1 of the NCAA Division II Super Regional at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.  

Junior pitcher Sarah Phillips continued her unbeaten season from the circle, throwing a complete game, giving up three hits and striking out five to move to 42-0.   

Although Phillips only gave up three hits, two of those were home runs.

Carlee Carpenter, a sophomore, hit her 13th homerun of the season for the Lady Bears (53-8) in the fourth inning and Kat Rivers, who leads the nation with 23 home runs on the season, blasted a two-run shot in the seventh. That home run made the game interesting in the top of the final inning, but Phillips shut down the Lady Bears to close out the game.

“I thought I pitched a really good game,” Phillips said. “They’re (just) a really good hitting team. I left a couple of pitches too fat for them, and they took advantage of it.

“(Rivers) had 22 home runs on the season (coming in), and she took advantage.”

The Lady Saints (49-0) saw two of their players provide power from the plate as well.

Freshman Katherine Martin hit a solo shot in the fourth inning, her fifth of the year, and senior Courtney McGuire followed in the next inning with a two-run smack.

“I was seeing the ball today,” McGuire said. “I just read it off her hand.”

With her attention focused on advancing as far as she could on the base paths while the ball was in the air, McGuire didn’t even watch it sail out of the park.

“I didn’t even know it went out,” she said of her eighth home run of the season. “I was just running.”

McGuire seemed to be in shock as she crossed home plate, even failing to give her teammates a smile until she was back in the dugout.

“(The playoffs are) where you want to be, and hitting that ball is amazing,” she said.  

Despite hitting a home run to put her team up 5-1 in the fifth, McGuire was more impressed with Phillips’ work in the circle.

“Sarah pitched a great game,” she said. “If she comes out like that tomorrow, that’s all we can ask for.”

Phillips was impressive, throwing 53 of her 71 pitches for strikes and giving up no walks.

In turn, Phillips wasn’t as impressed with her performance as she was with that of her team.

“(They) blow me away every time we come out here,” she said. “Every night, they shock everybody.”

Lady Saints coach Mike Davenport agreed.

“They played extremely hard and were aggressive offensively,” he said. “I thought that was key for us tonight.”

“We preach to the kids just to square the ball up,” he added. “Hopefully (the home runs) were on accident.”

McGuire finished the game 1-for-2 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk, while Martin finished 2-for-3, the only North Georgia player with multiple hits.

Taking the loss for Lenoir-Rhyne was freshman pitcher Alex Smith.

Coming into the game, the right-hander was 25-4 on the season and she backed up that record by striking out four and giving up only three walks. Smith was hampered by the Lady Bears defense which committed two errors, both of which led to two runs for the Lady Saints. Those two runs proved to be the difference.

With the game essentially decided on errors, Phillips isn’t taking anything for granted in Game 2.  

“It’s a whole new ball game (every time),” she said. “I know that the bats will be there on my team and that the defense will be there, (so) I have to be sharp.”

Davenport echoed his star pitcher.

“(Lenoir-Rhyne) is gonna battle to the very end,” he said. “They’re not here by accident. They’re one of the best teams in the nation.”

As far as making changes for today’s Game 2, Davenport doesn’t see anything major that can be done.
“We’ll stay the course and focus on what we can do,” he said.

The Lady Saints take to the field for Game 2 of the series at 2:30 p.m. today, with Game 3 to follow if necessary.
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