ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Top-ranked North Georgia College & State University’s softball team opened its quest for a Division II national championship on Thursday afternoon, using timely hitting and stellar defense to top Molloy College 4-0 in the opening game at Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Mo.
North Georgia (51-0) advances to today’s round of the NCAA Division II National Championships at 5 p.m. against Valdosta State. The Saints are now 3-2 all-time in the Division II World Series, and 2-0 in opening-round contests.
Molloy (43-20), which is making their first appearance in the tournament will make their way to the loser’s bracket and Saturday’s consolation round.
Molloy threatened in the first inning as the lead-off hitter walked and Jeana Frey followed with a bunt single to put a pair on with no outs. Following a force play at third for the first out of the game, a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with just one out.
North Georgia then put together a dazzling defensive play as a grounder to the right side was fielded by Laura Voyles, and after throwing to first for the out, Katherine fired a strike to third, forcing a rundown between third and home that ended the inning and the Lions’ threat.
Voyles stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the first and picked up right where she left off in the Southeast Super Regionals, belting the fourth pitch she saw over the fence in left-center for a solo home run to give the Lady Saints a 1-0 lead.
Courtney McGuire added to the lead in the fourth inning as the senior skied a ball to right field that caught the wind and resulted in another solo home run.
The Lady Saints added to their lead in the fourth inning when Lauren Dykes reached base on an infield single and stole second before being lifted for Jessica Skeels, who came around to score on a triple of the bat of McGuire — her second hit and second RBI of the game.
Hilary Cox stepped to the plate two batters later and laced a single to right field, sending McGuire trotting home and extending the Lady Saints lead to 4-0.
Sarah Phillips (44-0) tossed her 39th complete game of the year and 23rd shutout of the season to pick up her 10th win of the postseason. Phillips allowed just three hits in seven innings, while walking two and striking out six.
North Georgia is now just four wins shy of tying the NCAA’s all-time mark for consecutive wins.