The Peach Belt will be the first conference in the southeast with their tournament starting this Friday, 4/21 and ending on Saturday, 4/22. Heading to Milledgeville, Ga; home of Georgia College the conference tournament will be a single elimination tournament with the top 8 schools competing for the PBC automatic bid to the national tournament.
The tournament will see 4 quarterfinal games on Friday and then the 2 semifinals and 1 championship game played on Saturday. The seeding for the tournament is as follows, #1 North Georgia, #2 Armstrong State, #3 Flagler, #4 Young Harris, #5 Georgia College, #6 Columbus State, #7 Montevallo and #8 Francis Marion. Failing to reach the tournament were Lander, USC Aiken, Georgia Southwestern, UNC Pembroke and Augusta.
The schedule on Friday will be #7 Montevallo vs. #2 Armstrong State at 11:00 am, #6 Columbus State vs. #3 Flagler at 1:30 pm, #4 Young Harris at #5 Georgia College at 4:00 pm, and #8 Francis Marion vs. #1 North Georgia at 6:30 pm. On Saturday the first semifinal, with the winners of 2/7 vs. 3/6, is at 10:00am and the second semifinal, with 1/8 vs. 4/5, is at 12:30pm. The two winners of the semifinal games will play in the championship game at 3:00pm. Below is a look into each of the first round series,
#2 Armstrong State vs. #7 Montevallo at 11:00 am
Season Series: 1-1 split.
Armstrong won first game 9-0 in 6 innings then fell to Montevallo in the second game 6-0.
Armstrong State enters the tournament hitting .317 as a team, 3rd best in the PBC. The Pirates have outscored their opponents this season 244-123 and lead the PBC with 63 homeruns and a .545 slugging percentage. Armstrong State has the 3rd best team ERA in PBC with a 2.43 and threw the fewest walks with 78. The Pirates are on a 3 game win streak and are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
Montevallo posts the 8th best batting average in the PBC with a .292 however they are the 5th best with a .431 slugging percentage. Posting 106 extra base hits the Falcons hit 26 homeruns on the season. Montevallo was outscored by opponents 198-224 on the season. The Falcons pitching staff posted a 4.15 ERA, 11th in the PBC. Montevallo is 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Even though there was a split in the season this is a tough matchup for Montevallo. Out of all 8 teams in the tournament the Montevallo pitching staff gave up the most homeruns on the season and they will be facing off against Armstrong State who led the conference in homeruns. We look for the Pirates to be teeing off on the pitching staff. The Pirates have 6 players with 8 or more homeruns and we see Hannah Reppert having a big game. The Pirates are playing their last season of softball ever and are on a mission. We look for this game to be over and over quick with the bats of Armstrong State prevailing.
#3 Flagler vs. #6 Columbus State at 1:30 pm
Season Series: 2-0 Flagler.
Flagler took the two games at the end of the March winning game one 11-5 and game two 2-0.
Flagler was not the most potent of offenses however their ability to use speed on the base paths and stout defense allowed the Saints to outscore opponents 236-174. Flagler posted the 9th best batting average with a .283, but out of the 8 teams in the tournament swiped the most stolen bases with 122. The Flagler pitching staff had the 4th best ERA with a 2.55, and led the conference with 297 strikeouts, however out of the 8 tournament teams Flagler posted the most walks, 167. Flagler is on a 4 game win streak and is tied with North Georgia as the best record in the last 10 going 9-1.
Columbus State turned it on this season and were able to outscore opponents by a slim 249-232 margin on the season. The Cougars .281 batting average is the lowest of the 8 tournament teams, however there is some big power in their bats sitting at 3rd in the conference with 43 homeruns. Columbus State pitching staff posted a 3.48 team ERA which was 8th in the conference but they were 3rd in the conference with 277 strikeouts. The Cougars are currently on a slide losing their last 5 and going 2-8 in their last 10 games, the worst stretch of any tournament team.
Flagler will bring out one of the most potent arms in college softball this year with freshman Ally Marcano. Marcano who is tied for 1st with 195 strikeouts, 2nd with 22 wins and 3rd with a 1.48 ERA is going to be the arm for the Saints in the tournament. However, in their first meeting Columbus State was able to get to Marcano early scoring 5 runs on 8 hits including a homerun and they will need a repeat effort if they have a chance of the upset in the first round. However, this matchup pits one of the hottest teams, Flagler, against one of the coldest teams, Columbus State, in the first round. We see Flagler being too much and beating the Cougars in round one, but it will be a lot closer than people think, Columbus State is a better team than their last 10 games show.
#4 Young Harris at #5 Georgia College at 4:00 pm
Season Series: 2-0 Young Harris.
Young Harris captured both games at home winning game one 11-7 and game two 9-5.
While posting the 5th best batting average in the PBC, Young Harris used a league best 189 walks to post the 3rd best on base percentage with a .396. Only posting 18 homeruns on the season the Mountain Lions were 3rd with 77 doubles and tied for first with 13 triples. The Young Harris pitching staff posted the 2nd best team ERA with a 2.43 and was second with 5.67 strikeouts per 7 innings and 278 strikeouts. The Mountain Lions are 6-4 in their last 10 and saw a 6 game win streak ended with a loss to Belmont Abbey in their final game of the season.
Georgia College is surprisingly similar to the Young Harris team. Posting the 4th best batting average of .311 the Bobcats use speed to make up for what they lack in power. Hitting a PBC worst 14 homeruns on the season Georgia College led the PBC with 13 triples and was 3rd with 91 stolen bases. The Bobcats were also patient picking up 154 walks, 4th best in the conference for an on base percentage a .392, also 4th in the conference. Georgia College is on a 3 game slide but was 6-1 in the 7 games before the losing streak.
This looks to be the best game in the first round of the tournament as these two teams are very evenly matched. We expect both teams to turn to their seniors to be in the circle for this game with Jeanie Perucci for the Mountain Lions and Faith Flanders for the Bobcats. Currently it looks like Young Harris should be a lock to make the NCAA regionals but Georgia College will need a win for their shot at a post season. We see the added motivation and the home field advantage for the Bobcats help. We say Gerogia College will be too much keeping Young Harris from getting their 3rd win over the Bobcats this season.
#1 North Georgia vs. #8 Francis Marion at 6:30 pm
Season Series: 2-0 North Georgia.
North Georgia took both games at Francis Marion, however game one took 9 innings for the Nighthawks to get the 8-5 victory. In game two North Georgia won 7-4.
North Georgia enters the tournament as one of the hottest and strongest teams in the southeast. North Georgia leads the conference in doubles, RBI, and on base percentage and is second in batting average, slugging percentage, homeruns and runs. Hitting a team .322 and reaching base at a .401 clip the North Georgia offense is hard to stop. Outscoring opponents 318 to 103 their potent offense is only supplemented by their amazing pitching. The Nighthawks put up a team ERA of 1.46 and is third with 269 strikeouts. They also gave up a conference low of 103 runs with only 70 earned. The Nighthawks ride a 6 game win streak and are 9-1 in their last 10 and are 12-1 in the month of April.
Francis Marion enters the tournament thanks to a tie break over Lander. The Patriots are 6th in the PBC hitting .302 as a team and are 4th best with a .432 slugging percentage. Outscoring opponents 262-193 Francis Marion has used some outstanding pitching to keep games close. Posting a team ERA of 2.59 the 5th best in the PBC the Patriots with 190 strikeouts and 114 walks. The Patriots are on a 3 game losing streak and are 5-5 in the last 10 games.
Francis Marion snuck into the tournament and looks to start anew with their opportunity in the postseason. However, unluckily they are going to run into a buzz saw that is clicking as good as any team in the nation. North Georgia will use the arm of Kylee Smith who leads the PBC in wins, strikeouts and an amazing 0.98 ERA on the season. The Nighthawks bring 6 players hitting over .300 and are led by PBC leader Stephanie Hartness who is hitting .421 on the season. Francis Marion will throw their all, but a hot North Georgia team is way to tough to beat.
Projections for remainder of tournament:
- Semifinal Game 1: #2 Armstrong State vs. #3 Flagler
- Semifinal Game 2: #1 North Georgia vs. #5 Georgia College
- Championship Game: #1 North Georgia vs. #3 Flagler
- Champion: #1 North Georgia