Lady Cougars top Flagler to advance to PBC semifinals

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State ripped a pair of homers in the first two innings and Mollie Russell tossed a complete game three-hitter to propel the Lady Cougars to a 3-1 victory over Flagler in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday night at Cougar Field.

CSU improved to 37-18 on the year and will take on top-seed and sixth-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University in a semifinal matchup scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET. The Lady Pirates advanced in the tournament by defeating Francis Marion 7-5.

Flagler now stands at 34-17 and will sweat it out to see if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

All the fireworks in the contest came in the first two innings as the game pitted the league's two leaders in earned run average, Donna Munafo of Flagler and Russell of Columbus State.

The Lady Cougars got on the board in the first when Casey Googe blasted her PBC leading 20th homerun of the season, a two-run shot to straight away centerfield.  Morgan Knight scored on the play who reached on a fielder's choice.

Googe's homer tied the league's single-season record which is shared with Stacey Berrong of USC Spartanburg (now USC Upstate) and Cambria McKay of Kennesaw State.  She is also one long fly behind this year's national leader.

Flagler came right back in the home half of the inning and applied pressure to the CSU defense causing an error in the outfield that plated their only run of the contest.  Lauren Roudabush reached on a bunt single and after a foul out to a diving Kristen Gregory, she proceeded to steal second base.

Alona Personius then singled to rightfield moving Roudabush up to third but after the ball squirted away from rightfielder Branigan Wix, the leadoff batter scored on the play cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Taylor Turner doubled the advantage with one swing of the bat in the top of the second as she led off with a solo homerun over the leftfield wall.

From that point on, both pitchers would settle down and cruise through the remainder of the contest. 

The best scoring opportunity for either side came in the bottom of the third when back-to-back errors by Columbus State extended the inning bringing up Breezy Collings, the league's third leading homerun hitter.  Not letting the defensive miscues affect her, Rusell got Collings to ground out third to end the threat.

Russell ended the contest tossing just 75 pitches, 58 of them strikes, as she improved to 18-10 on the season.  She allowed just one unearned run scattering three hits while striking out one.  Googe went 1-for-3 driving in a pair of runs while Turner also went 1-for-3.

The two home runs hit by Columbus State now gives them 66 on the season, breaking the PBC single-season record which was set just last year by North Georgia.

Munafo was struck with the loss falling to 16-5 on the year as she surrendered three runs on four hits.  She also punched out five.  The top three hitters of the Flagler lineup each went 1-for-3 accounting for all of their hits.