(DAHLONEGA) – The No. 6 University of North Georgia had to wait for inclement weather to clear before its offense woke up from its hibernation. After a 2-hour and 19-minute rain delay, the Nighthawks exploded for seven runs in the fourth inning and two in the fifth to walk off the Columbus State Cougars with a 10-2, five-inning win in game one of the 2024 Peach Belt Conference Softball Tournament Championship.

Friday’s championship matchup between CSU and UNG marked the third consecutive year in which the two programs have met in the final PBC series of the season. The Nighthawks took down the Cougars in each of the previous two meetings. In fact, UNG is 9-1 all-time in the postseason (PBC and NCAA Tournament included) against CSU. The Cougars’ only win came back in 2012 in the PBC Tournament Championship.

Friday saw the Nighthawks continue their dominance over CSU.

Both teams went scoreless in the first, but it was the Cougars who threatened first in the game. In the top of the second, UNG senior starter Tybee Denton got two quick outs to start the frame. However, she followed that with three consecutive walks to load the bases. Against CSU shortstop Madison McDonald, Denton recorded her fourth strikeout of the day to escape the jam.

The Nighthawks also went scoreless in the second, but got on the board first with a solo shot from junior shortstop Rylie Moody to lead off the third inning.

Denton walked the first batter of the fourth inning before the umpires and game administrators paused the game due to a quickly charging thunderstorm. Before fans could gather their belongings and scramble to shelter, a heavy downpour covered Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium at Lynn Cottrell Park.

The delay lasted over two hours before both teams finally took the field again.

When they did, the Cougars jumped on the opportunity from the lead off walk before the delay to get on the board. After a pair of walks loaded the bases out of the break, CSU second baseman Kenzie Bayer singled up the middle to score a pair of runs and give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.

It would be their only lead of the game and it would not last long.

In the bottom of the frame, senior center fielder Mallory Parker led things off with a walk. After an out, sophomore first baseman Marycille Brumby then singled to put runners at first and second.

After a second out, senior third baseman Gracie Mixson would not let the inning end without a fight. As she fought off numerous pitches in a two-strike count against CSU starter Haylee Folds, Mixson pushed the at bat to nine pitches. On the ninth pitch, she rocked a three-run home run over the left field wall, launching UNG back in front 4-2.

Mixson’s fifth blast of the season opened the door for a two-run rally that widened the Nighthawks advantage.

Moody followed with a single. Then sophomore second baseman Katie Ward doubled and brought Moody home. Senior outfielder Mariah Wicker followed with a walk before senior catcher Georgia Blair singled to bring home another run. Parker then singled for two RBIs in her second at bat of the inning to conclude the seven-run onslaught in the frame.

Denton then struck out a pair of batters in the fifth, surpassing 200 strikeouts on the season just days after reaching the 500 career strikeout mark.

In the home half of the inning, Moody recorded her third hit of the day with a one-out double. The junior from Douglasville, Ga. went 3-for-3 on the day with three runs scored, a single, a double and a home run. She came around to score UNG’s ninth run of the day when Blair singled to centerfield.

With the speedy Wicker right behind Moody on the bases, Wicker tried to go from first to third on Blair’s singles. She did so successfully and baited an errant throw from Cougar center fielder Caitlin Canaday. As the throw got away from third baseman Kenzie Bayer, Wicker popped up off the base and raced home where no one was covering the plate. As she slid head first across the plate and made it 10-2, the Nighthawks stormed out of the dugout to celebrate their third run rule win of the tournament.

Now UNG needs one more win to seal its 10th consecutive PBC Tournament Championship. With inclement weather in the forecast again for tomorrow, Saturday, May 4, game two of the best-of-three series has been moved up an hour in a hope to avoid the rain.

First pitch from Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium is now scheduled for 11 a.m. Should CSU win the day’s first game, a third, decisive game between the two teams will take place 30 minutes after game one’s completion.