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SoCon showdown

Lady Eagles host league championship

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SoCon showdown

Georgia Southern pitcher Allie Miles pitched a two-hit shutout against Furman in the second game of a doubleheader in this Saturday, April 16, 2011 file photo. The Lady Eagles host the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament beginning today at 10 a.m. Furman faces Western Carolina in the play-in game to start the day at 10 a.m.

    Nine teams, only one champion.
    The Georgia Southern Lady Eagles are set to host the 2011 Southern Conference softball tournament with a bit to the NCAA regionals on the line, and it all gets started today at Eagle Field.
    The No. 3 seed Eagles (28-27, 16-8 SoCon) will face No. 6 UNC Greensboro (24-30, 10-14) in the night cap at 7 p.m.
    Georgia Southern swept the Lady Spartans in regular-season play.
    “It’s a good thing for our confidence, however it doesn’t mean anything,” said GSU coach Maggie Johnson about the UNCG sweep. “Last year, we swept Elon, and they beat us in the tournament in the first round. Every game is going to be intense, and everybody’s going to pick up their game.”
    “It’s down to the wire and anyone can win,” added pitcher Allie Miles, the SoCon’s Freshman of the Year. “You’ve just got to forget about what happened last time. It’s a new game, and anything can happen.”
    Chattanooga (38-12, 20-3) clinched the No. 1 seed and regular-season title for the fifth-straight season, and faces the winner of the 10 a.m. play-in game between Furman and Western Carolina today at 2 p.m.
    Defending tournament champion Elon, this year’s No. 5 seed, faces No. 4 College of Charleston at noon, and Appalachian State, which passed GSU on its bye week for the No. 2 seed last weekend, will face No. 7 Samford at 5 p.m.
    As the host institution, Georgia Southern’s staff has picked up many extra responsibilities, but has allowed Johnson to keep her focus.
    “[Associate athletic director] Cathy Beene has been on top of everything and has told me all along, ‘We just want you to coach,’” said Johnson. “There have been very few things I’ve had to do differently, and that’s due to all the support we’ve been getting from our administration.”
    The team, which had a weekend off after being swept by UTC to end the regular season, is just ready to play.
    “I think I would have rather played instead of a bye just so we’d have more momentum going in,” said GSU outfielder Marie Fogle, a first-team, All-SoCon selection, “but we’ve practiced and pretty much said we’re ready to play.”
    The Eagles host the tournament for only the second time in program history, and coupled with the bye week, are in good shape heading in.
    “We have a lot of things going in our favor. It really just comes down to if we are ready to come out here and do what it takes to win,” said Johnson. “We usually have a pretty good crowd. We’ve actually added bleachers along the outfield fence so it’ll kind of create a different atmosphere, but I don’t think it will be too much different than what we’re used to, and hopefully we’ll be so focused it doesn’t matter.”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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