SALEM, Va. — North Georgia coach Mike Davenport, in his 11th season with the Saints, made a couple of ingenious moves on Thursday, subbing in two players who made huge shifts in the Saints’ momentum against Indiana (Pa.) at the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.
“I think pitching-wise, Jess [Coan] was throwing the ball pretty well, but defensively we were making some mistakes behind her,” Davenport said. “I know Sarah [Phillips] fields her position pretty well. Hilary [Cox] has been out for five weeks. What that young lady has done over the past couple of weeks has been impressive. For her to come out today at the [championship] and hit a ball 200 feet is impressive.”
In the top of the fourth tied 3-3, Phillips took over at the mound for Coan. Perhaps it was mere coincidence, and ultimately it didn’t matter what got the game moving in their favor – the important thing to the Saints was that it started going their way.
“I had the confidence to go out there and trust myself and trust my teammates,” Phillips said. “At that point we were tied. I knew that as soon as we tied that ballgame the momentum had shifted to us. When our team has momentum, there’s no stopping us. I knew if I went out there and I was spot on in all my pitches that our team would win the ballgame. And I trusted that my teammates were good, and my team did just that.”
Down early in the game, Davenport subbed in Hilary Cox to pinch hit for leftfielder Katie Garrett, and Cox then took over at third base. It might seem odd to sub in a player who has been out with injury at a time when your team needs a boost, but not to Davenport. He knew that Cox was a clutch player, and despite two strikeouts at her first two at bats, Cox proved her worth in the sixth inning by belting a home run over the left field fence and scoring two in the process.
North Georgia is set to face Alabama-Huntsville on Friday for the fourth time this season, with the first three coming as losses. Hopefully the Saints’ familiarity with the Chargers will come in handy and allow for a different outcome in the matchup that matters the most.
Best of the Day
In addition to punching out eight Pioneers, UCSD pitcher Camille Gaito did not allow a hit after the second inning and went on to retire 15 of the final 16 batters she faced to help the Tritons take down C.W. Post 2-1 in the tourney opener.
UC-San Diego second baseman Jennifer De Fazio went 3 for 3 at the plate, scoring twice and adding one RBI in the Tritons’ 7-0 defeat of C.W. Post to open play in Salem, Va.
With Minnesota State-Mankato trailing 1-0 through the sixth inning, Kelly Wood hit a solid single to left field that sent a runner across the plate to tie the game. The Mavericks scored one more in the top of the seventh to win the game 2-1 against Saginaw Valley.
• Gaito became UC-San Diego’s all-time wins leader with 62. She also had eight strikeouts, well above her average. She struck out eight and did not issue a walk, cruising to her 29th complete game of the year.
• UC-San Diego scored seven runs for the first time since early April. UCSD, which had scored three runs or fewer in all five of its NCAA tournament wins before Thursday, scored a run in the second and third innings before adding three in the fifth and two in the seventh.
• CW Post’s seven errors were the most in a game this season for the Pioneers.
• Minnesota State-Mankato tied the program’s single-season home run record at 57, which was also reached by the 2010 squad.
• Minnesota State-Mankato’s Amanda Umhoefer, who sent one sailing late in the seventh, has 90 career hits, including 42 extra-base knocks with 18 home runs. It also marked the second consecutive game that she blasted a home run as the go-ahead run in the team’s final at bat.
• North Georgia centerfielder Pilar Harden sent one over the fence in the third inning, giving her a home run in each of the last four games.
• With the 9-4 win against Indiana (Pa.), North Georgia extended its mark for the most wins in school history to 53.
• Tossing eight K’s in the game, Indiana (Pa.)’s Holloway threw her 1,000th career strikeout in the 9-4 loss to North Georgia.
• Alabama-Huntsville’s Alex Lewis added to her NCAA Division II-leading saves tally with her 15th of the season in the Chargers’ 3-2 win against Midwestern State.