Lady Cougars advance to finals

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State erupted for five runs in the fourth inning and Mollie Russell tossed her second straight shutout in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament as the Lady Cougars defeated top-seeded and No. 6 Armstrong 6-0 on Sunday afternoon to advance to the conference championship game versus No. 11 North Georgia at Cougar Field in Columbus, Georgia.

NG reached the title game, their fifth in a row, by taking down USC Aiken in their semifinal contest Sunday morning by a score of 9-0.

The Lady Cougars had a runner reach safely in each of the first three innings before putting up five in the fourth which began with a Casey Googe double down the leftfield line.  Kara Gordon and Morgan Staffins had back-to-back RBI singles to score the contest's first two runs.  Kori Waugh followed suit with a double down the leftfield line that chased Armstrong starter Celia Blome from the contest as CSU went ahead 3-0.

After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Waugh scored on a fielder's choice by Branigan Wix.  Nina Rubio walked loading the bases with just one out.  Following a strikeout, Googe walked forcing in the final run of the inning and giving the tournament hosts a 5-0 lead.

That would be all Russell would need as the right-hander was dealing all afternoon.

Shelby Duff led the game off with a dribbler in front of home plate for a base hit before 11 straight Pirates were retired.  An error broke the streak before Russell induced another groundout to get out of the fourth.

Two infield singles and a double were scattered over the next three innings for Armstrong as their two-out double in the seventh inning was the only time some a Pirated reached scoring position.

Morgan Staffins put the icing on the cake with a solo homerun that hit off the top of the wall and bounced over for her ninth long fly of the season and making it a 6-0 ballgame.

Columbus State picked up nine hits in the contest including two each from Morgan Staffins, Taylor Turner and Kori Waugh.  The Lady Cougars also walked seven times in the game. 

Russell picked up her PBC leading 14th shutout of the season as she gave up just four hits while striking out seven.  She threw only 82 pitches in the game, 68 of which were for strikes.  Her shutout total is also the second best nationally.

CSU snapped Armstrong Atlantic State University's 18-game winning streak which dated back to March 15 when they lost game one of a PBC doubleheader with North Georgia.

Celia Blome started for the Pirates lasting just three plus inning giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk.  Megan Barnwell came on relief to toss the final four innings surrendering two runs on a pair of hits and six walks.