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Peach Belt softball coaches select UNG as conference favorite

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Stephanie Hartness, a senior outfielder for UNG, watches the ball after connecting. Hartness was named to the 2017 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division II National Player of the Year Watch List, which recognizes the top 50 players in the country, on Feb. 1.

The Nighthawks softball team of the University of North Georgia (UNG) has been marked as the top team in a Peach Belt Conference (PBC) preseason softball coaches' poll.

The PBC made the announcement Jan. 23 after the Nighthawks received eight first-place votes out of a possible 12 and earned 140 total points. UNG also scored eighth in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II Top 25 preseason poll.

"Our softball team always delivers excitement, and we expect this year will be no exception," said Lindsay Reeves, director of athletics at UNG. "The preseason poll rankings from the PBC and NFCA affirm what we already know; we have an incredible collection of talent and work ethic present in our student-athletes and coaching staff, and we all are looking forward to watching them represent UNG this year."

UNG's softball schedule features a challenging opening weekend at the Gulf Coast Invitational, where the Nighthawks will face two Top 25 teams, including the season opener against No. 23 University of Alabama — Huntsville. UNG’s first home appearance will be the 2017 Steak 'n Shake Classic at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium on Feb. 10–12, welcoming Palm Beach Atlantic University, McKendree University, Mars Hill University, and University of West Georgia.

UNG will open conference play in a rematch of 2016's Super Regional Conference, hosting No. 3 Armstrong State University at Hill Stadium on March 5. Next, the Nighthawks will go 26 days without a home game, traveling across the region before returning home on April 1 to host University of South Carolina — Aiken on Operation Nighthawks of Honor Day. UNG also recently received the 2017 NCAA DII Award of Excellence for Operation Nighthawks of Honor.

The Peach Belt Conference Tournament will be hosted by Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville for the third consecutive year; the Nighthawks have gone 6-0 at the tournament over the past two years, outscoring opponents a combined 34-6 in those six games on the way to winning the past two tournaments.

UNG will pursue its fourth consecutive PBC championship in 2017 — four consecutive titles would tie the conference record held by Kennesaw State University.

The 2017 season begins on Friday, Feb. 3 at 2:30 p.m. EST, as UNG faces No. 23 University of Alabama — Huntsville in Gulf Shores, Alabama. To see where and when the Nighthawks are playing, view the team's online schedule.

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