MOUNT OLIVE, NC – The University of North Georgia's Andres Perez hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game to lift the Nighthawks to the NCAA Southeast Region Championship over Catawba 5-4 on Monday in Mount Olive. With the win, the Nighthawks (46-10) advance to their first Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas, starting on May 27.
North Georgia led by 3-1 and 4-2 only to see the Indians come back and tie the game 4-4 in the top of the eighth. With two outs in the bottom of the innings, Perez took the 2-2 pitch over the left field wall, his seventh homer of the season.
Catawba got a leadoff single in the top of the ninth, but UNG pitcher Jack Fleming (W, 1-0) induced a double play and a fly out to end the game.
North Georgia scored single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to take a 3-0 lead.
In the third, Perez got the scoring started with an RBI single up the middle that brought in Steven Tomlinson. Michael Gouge then delivered another RBI single to left in the fifth to bring home Devin Gearhart, who led off the inning with a walk. Conner Corbitt then scored in the sixth on a bases-loaded wild pitch. The bases remained loaded with one out but UNG was unable to put any more runs on the board with an inning-ending double play.
UNG starter Dylan Peppers kept Catawba off the board in his six innings of work. He scattered four hits and allowed only one walk with seven strikeouts. UNG had to go to the bullpen to start the seventh. Catawba scored two runs in that frame, helped by a UNG fielding error and scored runs a Jeremy Simpson RBI single and a sac fly from Luke Setzer.
The Indians (40-17) tied the game in the top of the eighth with three hits, including a double, and another UNG error. Nick Coble delivered the double as a pinch-hitter, but was stranded at second as Jacob Nester ground out to short to end the inning.
Catawba's Michael Elwell (L, 0-3) took the loss after giving up the homer to Perez, one of two runs scored during his 2.2 innings of work. Indians starter Russ Welker went five innings, allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
Perez and Bill Leroy were the only two Nighthawks with more than one hit in the game. Leroy went 2-for-4 with a double in the bottom of the seventh that scored UNG's fourth run.
Simpson went 3-for-4 for Catawba while Kyle Smith was 2-for-5. Only one of Catawba's 10 hits went for extra bases.
North Georgia makes their first Division II World Series appearance in their third NCAA Tournament. Their first-round opponent and game time is yet to be determined. The double-elimination tournament begins on Saturday with all games being played at the Ballpark at Grand Prairie.
Catcher - Andres Perez, North Georgia
First Base - Drew Ellis, Mount Olive
Second Base - Seth Hunt, Lincoln Memorial
Third Base - Cal Gentry, Georgia College
Shortstop - Connor Hoover, North Georgia
Outfield - Logan Augustine, Lincoln Memorial
Outfield - Luke Setzer, Catawba
Outfield - Nick Debo, UNC Pembroke
Pitcher - Dylan Peppers, North Georgia
Pitcher - Bryan Blanton, Catawba
Most Valuable Player - Dylan Peppers - North Georgia