-UNG softball team will host national champ Florida State Sunday
The University of North Georgia (UNG) softball team will welcome defending Division I national champion Florida State University for a fall exhibition at noon Nov. 4.
It will mark the second trip to Dahlonega in four years for the Seminoles. Florida State defeated Washington in June for its national title. UNG won the Division II national championship in 2015 and went 62-4 while making it back to the eight-team Division II Softball Championship in 2018.
UNG coach Mike Davenport built a challenging fall exhibition schedule that included a road matchup with Southeastern Conference power Auburn University and a game with Valdosta State University in Auburn, Alabama, both of which were earlier this month.
Admission to the game will be free.
“Any time you can help grow the game with their program and what we’ve been able to accomplish at the Division II level as well, it should good be a good day for softball fans,” Davenport said.
Florida State assistant coach Travis Wilson was an assistant to Davenport when the pair mentored the United States Specialty Sports Association Pride team in The National Pro Fastpitch League during summer 2015. That helped make the way for a fall 2015 meeting between the teams in Dahlonega, a trip that impressed Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda.
“She just enjoyed being up here and the environment here,” Davenport said. “We knew we wanted to get them back if they were able to.”
Davenport starts his 19th season as head coach in 2019 and returns seven starters from the 2018 team, while adding seven freshmen and a transfer. Leading the returnees is Kylee Smith, a junior pitcher who was named Schutt Sports/NFCA Division II National Player of the Year after going 36-3 with a 0.59 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 2018.
Also returning are five of the top six hitters from last season: junior outfielder Kaylyn Anthony (.367), junior catcher Shelby Hammontree (.354), sophomore outfielder Hobby Gregory (.341), junior utility player Alishia Frierson (.310), and junior outfielder Lexi Duncan (.305).
Senior infielder Kali Turner is looking forward to the Florida State game.
“We’re excited to play really hard competition because we feel like that makes us better,” Turner said.
Davenport said his team is looking to maintain its winning ways as it approaches the spring. The Nighthawks have won five straight Peach Belt Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
“The consistency is what we pride ourselves on, building a program and not just a championship team,” Davenport said. “We don’t want to be here one year and then gone for three or four years and then back again. We want to be in the mix every single year, and that’s important to us.”
Turner and her teammates thrive on those high standards.
“Coach really sets the tone for us when it comes to things like that,” Turner said. “He always tells us what he expects, and I feel like we always try to exceed his expectations.”