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Eagle softball moves through round one

Siliga named POTY

    MT. PLEASANT, S.C. — No. 2 seed Georgia Southern received home runs from sophomore Jenny Side (Loganville, Ga.) and Amanda Hall (Haddock, Ga.) to defeat No. 7 seed Appalachian State 4-2 in the first round of the Southern Conference Softball Tournament Wednesday afternoon at Patriots Point.
    The Eagles (35-28) move on to face the winner of College of Charleston-Furman today at 5 p.m.
    The opening-round win is the first for the program since head coach Natalie Poole’s first season in 2002. The last two years GSU has rebounded from a first-day loss to advance to the championship game, winning it all in 2006.
    “It feels good,” said Poole. “I was a little nervous going in because we weren’t able to start Mel (Laliberte) but we felt confident that Megen (Smith) had beaten this team. I was just hoping App wasn’t confident because we weren’t able to pitch our number one.”
    Laliberte was a last-minute scratch due to an undisclosed illness.
    Side got the key blow, a three-run homer in the third inning. She drove the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence to score junior Robyne Siliga (Oceanside, Calif.) and senior Aubrey Thweatt (Georgia, Vt.). Side adds to her school-record total of 14 home runs in 2008.
    Hall added an insurance run in the fifth with a solo shot, her seventh of the season.
    “Jenny’s (homer) was with two outs and I’m definitely happy about that,” said Poole. “Amanda battled with two strikes and was able to pull out a home run. It was on a good swing too, so I was happy about that also.”
    Freshman Megen Smith (Springfield, Ga.) allowed eight hits and two runs (both unearned) to move to 13-8. She struck out two and walked four, including two in the seventh which led to both App State runs.
    “I think she did a good job,” said Poole. “The walks have to be eliminated, but that’s something she’ll learn from because a lot of times we won’t be able to get out of that situation as easy as we did this time.
    ASU’s Kayla Richardson (6-18) gave up five hits and four earned runs.    

SoCon awards
    The Southern Conference announced its softball all-conference teams and individual honors Wednesday night at the annual awards banquet held in conjunction with the SoCon Softball Championships. The teams were voted on by the league’s eight head coaches.
    Regular season champions Chattanooga led the way by taking three of the four individual awards. Sophomore Brooke Loudermilk earned her second consecutive Pitcher of the Year award while teammate Michelle Fuzzard was selected as the Freshman of the Year. UTC head coach Frank Reed was also selected by his peers as the league’s Coach of the Year. Earning Player of the Year honors was Georgia Southern junior third baseman Robyne Siliga.
    Loudermilk finished the regular season with a 13-7 record to go along with five saves and a 1.88 ERA. She also tossed four shutouts while striking out 191 batters.
    Fuzzard, a first baseman for Chattanooga, finished the regular season batting .358 with five home runs and 31 RBI for the regular season champion Lady Mocs. She ranks in the top five in the league in batting average, slugging and on-base percentage and she is tied for the league-lead with 13 doubles.
    Siliga hit .389 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI during the regular season and ranked in the top 10 in most hitting categories. Her batting helped the league’s highest-scoring team finish second in the regular season.
    In his seventh season as head coach, Reed guided the Lady Mocs to the program’s 10th regular season title in 15 seasons and the fourth under Reed’s leadership. Chattanooga won a league-high 35 games, including 14 in a row from March 21 to April 12.
    Georgia Southern led the way with eight all-conference members, including four first-team and four second-team selections.
    Pitcher Melissa Laliberte,  second baseman Nina Iduate, outfielder Lindsey Hopkins and Siliga were named to the first team.
    Pitcher Megen Smith, catcher Jenny Side, shortstop Amanda Hall and outfielder Michelle Beasley were named to the second team.

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