Lady Cougars split doubleheader with No. 3 North Georgia

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State shut out No. 3 North Georgia 1-0 in game one of a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader Sunday afternoon at Cougar Field. North Georgia came back to win the nightcap, 4-1.

The Lady Cougars were able to push across the only run in the sixth as Nina Rubio had a one-out single up the middle.  Morgan Knight laid down a bunt to move Rubio up into scoring position but she was able to beat out the throw putting runners on first and second with no outs.  Back-to-back walks to Casey Googe and Kara Gordon plated the lone run of the contest.

Each team had opportunities earlier in the game but came away empty.

In the third, North Georgia loaded the bases with a single, catcher's interference and a fielding error with just one out.  CSU's Mollie Russell dug down and picked her team up striking out the next two batters to get out of the game.

Two innings later the Lady Saints again had the bags full with only one out but came away empty.  Morgan Staffins forced an out on the play on a grounder before another grounder to Russell ended the threat.

Columbus State had their threat in the third which began with a Taylor Turner walk.  Following a strikeout and groundout, Nina Rubio hit a ball in the whole but the NG shortstop couldn't handle the play putting runners on first and second.  Knight struck out ending the inning.

Rubio's hit in the sixth inning broke up Jessica Coan's no-hit bid for NG.

Mollie Russell picked up her 12th win of the year, firing seven shutouts innings allowing five hits while issuing just one walk and striking out 13.  Eleven of her 12 wins this season have been shutouts.  Rubio and Knight had the only hits for the Lady Cougars.

Coan (20-6) suffered the loss giving up one run on two hits and three walks.  Last year's National Pitcher of the Year recorded 13 strikeouts.  Pilar Harden and Tiffanie Burns each picked up two hits apiece.

In game two, things got off to a shaky start for the Lady Cougars in the top half of the inning as two straight illegal pitches gave Harden first base with a walk.  Rochelle Shuman reached on a fielding error and following a pop-out, Karlie Gillam loaded the bases also via a fielding error. 

Russell did what she did in the first game, bailing out the defense by striking out Sarah Johnson before Kayla Minger lined out to first base to get out of the jam. 

Columbus State (26-12, 5-3) threatened in the second inning but the rare "Look Back Rule" came into effect costing them at least one run.  Kara Gordon drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed over to second by Morgan Staffins.  No one was covering third allowing Gordon to take the bag.  The ball was thrown to the pitcher with Gordon off the base where she was not making an attempt to score or retreat to third base therefore ruling her out on the "Look Back Rule."

Kori Waugh proceeded to walk in the next at-bat before Taylor Turner laced a single up the middle.  Kristen Gregory flew out to end the inning without the Lady Cougars putting one on the board. 

CSU finally did crack threw an inning later as Branigan Wix began the frame with a single through the right side.  Morgan Knight singled to centerfield before Casey Googe brought home Wix with a single to leftfield giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.

North Georgia (31-7, 5-3) responded a half inning later posting a three-spot in the fourth inning.  Gillam was hit by a pitch starting off the frame and was pinch-ran for by Katie Garrett.  Johnson then singled to right-centerfield moving Garrett to third. 

With Russell holding the ball in the circle, Johnson hesitated and broke for second but was not called out for the "Look Back Rule" putting both runners in scoring position.  A walk loaded the bases before a passed ball and wild pitch plated the Lady Saints first two runs making it a 2-1 ballgame.  A failed pickoff attempt at third allowed the final run of the frame to come across.

Kayla Minger singled in North Georgia's fourth run of the game in the fifth after two straight walks and a groundout put runners at second and third.

Columbus State made things interesting in the seventh inning bringing up the game-winning run to the plate but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.  Wix reached on a fielding error followed by an infield hit by pinch-hitter Sydney Finley.  After an infield fly out, Googe was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  With two attempts to potentially hit a walk-off grand slam, CSU came up a bit short.

Russell (12-7) suffered the losing working 3.2 innings giving up three runs (two earned) on two hits and two walks.  Turner tossed 2.1 innings surrendering a run on three hits while Kelsey Gilliam worked a clean frame in the seventh.  Turner was also 2-for-3 at the plate while Googe drove in the only run of the game for the Lady Cougars going 1-for-3.

Melissa Dickie was able to work herself out of several jams throughout the game was she improved to 10-0 on the season.  She threw all seven innings allowing one run on seven hits and three walks.  Mackenzie Arlt was the lone Lady Saint to have a multi-hit performance going 2-for-3.

CSU returns to the diamond on Friday when they travel to Savannah to take on No.16 Armstrong Atlantic State University in a critical Peach Belt Conference doubleheader.