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Softball team rallies into Super Regional

The UNG softball team battled back from a loss to win its NCAA Division II Southeast Regional pod and will host Lenoir-Rhyne in a Super Regional set for May 14-15.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) softball team wasn't about to let one loss to Francis Marion in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional spoil its pursuit of a second national title in as many years. In fact, a day after the 2-1 nine-inning setback to the Patriots, the second-seeded Nighthawks turned the tables with 7-3 and 5-0 victories against No. 3 seed Francis Marion on May 11 to lift them into the Super Regional round.

"I am extremely proud of our players showing their resiliency and veteran leadership to be able to bounce back from two challenging weekends to put themselves in a position to compete in the NCAA Super Regionals," UNG softball head coach Mike Davenport said. "You saw what the North Georgia uniform meant to each one of our kids and how hard they are willing to fight for each other until the final pitch."

Thanks to an upset on the other side of the bracket, UNG, ranked eighth nationally, will host Lenoir-Rhyne at 2:30 p.m. May 14 in the Super Regional opener at Haines and Carolyn Hill Stadium at Lynn Cottrell Park. Game 2 of the best-of-three series is at noon May 15, with a decisive third game to follow if needed.

The winner between UNG (51-11) and Lenoir-Rhyne (48-15) advances to the eight-team NCAA championship set for May 19-25 at Boombah-Soldiers Creek Park in Longwood, Florida. Two other UNG teams — the men's golf and women's tennis squads — have already advanced to NCAA championships in the Orlando area, highlighting UNG's ability to "build the most competitive, value-added Division II athletic program in the nation" as outlined in President Michael Shannon's strategic big bets. NCAA Division II is hosting most of its spring championships in the Orlando area as part of its festival format to stage multiple spring championships in close proximity.

UNG and Lenoir-Rhyne matched up twice in mid-February in the North Georgia Leadoff Classic, with the Nighthawks falling 2-1 in 10 innings Feb. 17 and winning 6-0 Feb. 18 against the Bears.

Davenport and his players never wavered after a pair of losses to Columbus State in the Peach Belt Conference championship series or the loss to Francis Marion in the second game of the regional.

"Our belief in each other and the program gives our players the confidence to be able to step on the field and know they have the ability to compete with some of the best teams in the country," Davenport said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for our opponents, as well as the game itself. And when you can focus on playing the game to the best of your ability, then you can often eliminate parts of the game that are out of your control and focus on the parts of the game you can attack."

UNG outscored Flagler and Francis Marion in two wins against each opponent by a combined 25-3 margin during the regional. Senior Tybee Denton picked up three pitching victories, and senior Kristen Davis also earned a win in the circle.