The Lady Saints softball team at North Georgia College & State University doesn’t play in front of thousands of fans, they don’t even play in front of hundreds.
Their highlights won’t be seen on SportsCenter nor are their games broadcast nationally, much less regionally.
But on the cover of their media guide is a blueprint for a softball stadium and on the inside pages, a blueprint for success: a program built on history and building for the future.
"In the coaching profession you want to get to the top and stay at the top," said North Georgia College & State University coach Mike Davenport, who took over the Lady Saints’ program in August of 2000. "It’s important to me to be a reputable program."
Since its inception in 1997, the softball program has won five conference titles and earned three trips to the national tournaments of both the NAIA and the NCAA.
And 2008 marked the first year of eligibility for NCAA Division II postseason play and the Lady Saints didn’t let the opportunity pass them by, finishing as Southeast Regional runner-up and as the No. 12 team in the nation.
For all its done, however, nothing compares to what this year’s team is about to experience.
With a record of 48-3 and a No. 1 ranking, the Lady Saints left Tuesday to join seven other teams in the Division II College World Series in Salem, Va.
"Everyone who’s ever been in this program is a part of this year," said North Georgia’s lone senior Kaelin Farrington. "We wouldn’t be where we are without their hard work, without them laying the foundation.
"We’re very happy to be able to go to the College World Series and no matter what happens this week, we’ll be proud," Farrington said, "But we’re not satisfied, we want to win a national title."
The Lady Saints beat fourth-ranked Augusta State twice in the Southeast Dahlonega Regional and then followed that up by a sweep of seventh-ranked Carson Newman in the Southeast Dahlonega Super Regional to make it to this week’s World Series.
"This fall we played some of the top teams in the nation to prepare for last week and this week," Davenport said. "I don’t think our kids are going to be in awe, they haven’t been so far."
Nor have the Lady Saints folded under the pressure of being tabbed the best team in the nation.
They are 5-0, having beaten each of the five opponents by an average of 4.4 runs, since the poll putting them at No. 1 came out the first week of May.
"A lot of the pressure we feel we put on ourselves," said North Georgia ace Sarah Phillips, who boasts a 37-1 record with a 1.05 ERA. "We know what we can accomplish."
That confidence is a direct result of past successes and a mixture of, according to designated hitter Leslee Smith, "coaching, teamwork, hard work, perseverance, discipline and intensity."
"Coach Davenport is a great coach," said Smith, who has a team-leading .395 batting average with nine home runs. "I’ve never seen anything like him and I, we, learn so much from him."
"We work so hard for the full seven innings and coach has really instilled that intensity in us," Phillips added. "It’s every single pitch that counts. You can’t take a pitch off because that’s when you’ll get hurt."
Davenport has also instilled in his team a need to trust the person playing beside them, batting behind them and cheering them on from the dugout.
"If you were to look up the definition, or give a definition of team, we meet all the standards," said junior Courtney McGuire, who today will be announced as a first-team all-American for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. "We couldn’t ask for more than what we give each other."
McGuire is an outfielder for the Lady Saints and leading the team with 11 home runs.
For all that North Georgia has already proven it has, from year’s past to this year, the girls on the team that is part of a bigger program aren’t happy with simply going further than they ever have.
That mentality is a direct result of a coach who has from the start, seen the bigger picture.
"We’re treating it as a tournament we feel we have a chance to win," Davenport said. "We’re on a business trip."
And for his only senior, the leader of this Lady Saints team, she wants nothing more than leave the World Series the way she’s entering it, on top.
"For us, softball has been part of our lives since we were four or five years old," Farrington said. "I feel truly blessed to be part of this team. Not many people get to end their competitive careers doing this."