Week 4 (2/20-2/26/2017)
1. North Georgia reclaims their dominance in the Southeast.
We picked Armstrong over North Georgia in the Peach Belt, then we picked Lenoir-Rhyne to beat North Georgia to make it to the Super Regionals, all North Georgia has done to answer our doubts is win, and win against great teams. Heading to the D9 this weekend they took on Eckerd, Spring Hill and #8 St. Leo and walked out with a 4-1 record only dropping a 1 run game to Spring Hill and taking down #8 St. Leo, who has been a Peach Belt killer, 3-1. One of the biggest reasons for their success this season is two new faces, freshman pitcher Kylee Smith and junior transfer from Missouri, Sydney Sprague.
When we started this season we had no idea who would replace Courtney Poole, well Smith has walked in and told everyone this is her time. Currently leading the PBC with strikeouts (91), wins (11), and second in ERA (0.92) Smith is showing she is not only one of the most dominant pitchers in the region but in NCAA DII. Smith came in clutch this week logging a 3-0 record and recording a save. During the week she pitched 22.0 innings and only allowed 3 earned runs. Against an elite Spring Hill team that had defeated North Georgia in the previous game, she threw a complete game 2 hit shutout. To follow that up she threw another complete game against #8 St. Leo where she only gave up 5 hits and 1 unearned run. She had 20 strikeouts on the weekend and only walked 8 while pitching to some of the best teams in the nation.
Transfer, Sprague, has also emerged as a main offensive threat for the Nighthawks. Sprague is tied for first in the southeast with 7 homeruns while leading her team with 24 RBI. Sprague is also second on the team in 7 offensive categories only trailing All-American Stephanie Hartness, while being tied with Hartness for at bats and stolen bases.
North Georgia has only just begun their process and is packed with a lot of talent and most importantly a dominate pitcher who is only a freshman. We will really see all of this come to ahead when PBC play opens this weekend as North Georgia and Armstrong State face off on Sunday for the chance to claim the PBC top spot early on in the season.
2. Francis Marion is coming alive on the season.
While starting the season a quality 6-4 including a sweep of Wingate and a split with North Greenville they have turned up the bats going 6-0 last week by sweeping Mount Olive, Tusculum and Mars Hill. During this 6 game win streak the Patriots have outscored their opponents 52-17 including 3 games where they scored in the double digits. Leading the charge for Francis Marion was junior college transfer, junior utility player Sam Chiudina who posted 7 hits in 16 at bats while being walked 9 times. Chiudina also hit 2 homeruns and a double on the week giving her a .875 slugging percentage to go with her .640 on base percentage and .438 batting average. Francis Marion will need to carry this offensive firepower as they open up the conference this week playing Lander on Saturday and USC Aiken on Sunday, both games being at home.
3. Young Harris has quietly ripped off the best record heading into conference play.
Young Harris has quietly logged a perfect 14-0 record this season being the only undefeated team in the Southeast. While they may have not played the most difficult schedule in the region early sweeps against Queens and North Greenville look better and better while beating a strong Anderson squad 6-1 punctuates their early season success. What is most impressive about Young Harris is how good they are playing the game of softball right now. As a team they are hitting an impressive .359 while opponents are held to a .174. They have also outscored their opponents 131-25 and their pitchers post a team ERA of 1.67 while opponents are logging a 6.15 era against them. Young Harris currently has 2 players in the top 10 of batting average and both hitting over .450 while main pitcher Jeanie Perucci holds the best ERA with a 0.74 and a 7-0 record. However what speaks the most about this team is that in 14 games they have only 10 errors for a .970 fielding percentage while their opponents have 45 errors for a .886 fielding percentage. In the first 4 weeks the Mountains Lions have quietly been building one a the best hitting, pitching and fielding teams in the region and that is a recipe for success.
4. Don’t forget about Pfeiffer.
So it may have been a little overreaction but when Pfeiffer lost 6-0 against a good Lenoir-Rhyne team we somewhat forgot about how good they are. Since the lost they have reeled off an 11 game win streak including going 8-0 against PBC teams and 2-0 against SAC teams. Pfeiffer has handed Columbus State 3 of their 8 losses and handled a good USC Aiken team sweeping them and giving Aiken 2 of their 3 losses on the season. Last week the Falcons outscored their opponents 32-18 and was able to win 3 close games winning in extra innings against Aiken and Lander and coming back to beat Columbus State 7-6. Coach Sherrill has his team hitting .318 and the pitching staff posting a 1.96 ERA. Freshman Makenzie Pennell is spearheading the Falcons offensive attack by leading the team in 8 offensive categories including batting average (.423), on base percentage (.492), and slugging percentage (.750). Fellow Freshman, left handed pitcher Caitlin Christian, has emerged as the main arm in the pitching staff. The lefty has thrown a team high 49.2 innings while leading the team in ERA (1.55) and strikeouts (56) while posting a 4-1 record. Pfeiffer will face another test this Thursday in a double header versus Anderson who is currently 16-4 and will open up their conference season next week on Wednesday, March 8 against upstart Barton team who is a surprising 8-6 on the season.
5. Has Queens figured it out?
Queens came out on the season and posted a 1-7 record to start the season. But Coach Schramm rallied the troops and all they have done since then is win 8 straight games and now sit at 9-7. Queens had it rough at the start playing Young Harris (14-0), Georgia College (7-9), UNC Pembroke (13-4), and Pfeiffer (15-1) since then they have been able to lighten up the schedule including sweeps against Chowan and Belmont Abbey and quality wins against King and Erskine. A key component of their latest 8 game streak is freshman pitcher Courtney Pearson making it work. Pearson has gone 6-0 during this time throwing 32.0 innings and logging 42 strikeouts while only allowing 6 earned runs. While Pearson has a 3.53 ERA on the season, her ERA in the last 6 games is a 1.31. Queens will play North Greenville this Wednesday which should give us a better look at how good the Royals are becoming.
Previous Down South Players of the Week:
- Week 1 – Hannah Reppert; Armstrong State
- Week 2 – Abbey Walters, UNC Pembroke
- Week 3 – Shayna Finley, North Greenville
Previous Down South Pitchers of the Week:
- Week 1 – Sierra Hearp; Barton College
- Week 2 – Christine Carver, Coker
- Week 3 – Brandi Parks, Lenoir-Rhyne