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Monday July 24th, 2017 2:52AM

Nighthawks claims fourth straight PBC Tournament championship

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor

MILLEDGEVILLE — Freshman Kylee Smith proved herself as the Peach Belt's best pitcher on the league's biggest stage, throwing over 10 shutout innings on Saturday to help lead the eighth-ranked University of North Georgia softball team to their fourth consecutive PBC Tournament Championship. The Nighthawks picked up a 5-4 walk off win over Young Harris in the semifinals before shutting down Flagler, 4-0, in the title game. UNG, which earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament today, now owns a 44-10 record.

Semifinal: North Georgia 5, Young Harris 4
North Georgia jumped out to an early lead in the first two innings as Alishia Frierson picked up a pair of RBI singles in the first and second with Sydney Sprague and Stephanie Hartness adding run producing hits in the second to give UNG a 4-0 lead.

A rough inning for the Nighthawk infield that saw three errors, led to a four-run fourth for Young Harris with all four runs being unearned, tying the game at 4-4.

The game remained tied up until the bottom of the seventh as Hartness and Frierson led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Kaylyn Anthony laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third but an errant throw by the Mountain Lions allowed Hartness to come in to score and send the Nighthawks to the championship game. 

Championship: North Georgia 4, Flagler 0
The Nighthawks opened the game with a pair of runs in the bottom first with Sprague and Hartness scoring on a wild pitch and a throwing error, respectively, to give UNG a 2-0 lead.

Hartness went deep in the third to extend the lead to 3-0 and Hannah McSwain plated Lexi Duncan with an RBI single up the middle in the fourth to give North Georgia the 4-0 advantage that proved final.

NOTES
- Kylee Smith (27-4) earned both wins on the day, getting the W in relief in the semifinal and going the distance in the championship game. Altogether, Smith allowed just five hits in 10.1 innings pitched with one walk and six strike outs.

- Stephanie Hartness led UNG offensively on the day with a 5-for-7 performance at the plate with two RBI and five runs scored.

- The PBC Tournament Championship is the fourth straight for North Georgia and the seventh in the last nine years. It also continues an impressive streak of UNG winning the conference tournament championship every year that they have won the regular season crown.

NEXT UP
The Nighthawks, currently ranked No. 1 in the Southeast in the NCAA Regional Rankings, are expected to host an NCAA DII Southeast Regional in Dahlonega. The NCAA DII Tournament field will officially be announced on an NCAA.com Selection Show on Monday, May 8 at 10 a.m.

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