Blazers burn Cougars in final home game of regular season

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Valdosta State scored eight of the game's final nine runs to rally to defeat No, 10 Columbus State 12-6 on Wednesday at Ragsdale Field.

The Blazers had three key innings in the game beginning with the top of the second as VSU plated four runs thanks in part to two CSU errors. Kevin Cruz began the frame with a single off of Cougar starter Ryan Pistey before a throwing error placed runners on the corners with no outs. Hunter Thompson drove home the game's first run with a sharp single through the right side of the infield.

After a sacrifice bunt moved two runners into scoring position, another Cougar error allowed a run to cross the plate. The third run of the inning scored on a RBI grounder off the bat of Mike Reed while Michael Gouge drove home a run with a single to right-centerfield.

Columbus State (34-13) struck for a run in the third inching closer to the Blazers thanks to a key two-out hit. With one-out, Matt Nettles drew a walk and moved to second on a Brendan Collins single. After a fly out for the second out of the frame, senior Jimmy Obermark sent a 3-0 pitch into left-centerfield scoring Nettles. The Cougars would proceed to load the bases but weren't able to add on.

An inning later, the Cougars went in front thanks to a four-run outburst in the fourth. Blaine Miller got things started with a one-out single before a hits batsman and a walk loaded the bases for Collins. VSU went to the bullpen for Jarod Stanley but Collins greeted him with a double over the left fielder's head plating two runs making the score 4-3.

From there, Valdosta State struggled to throw strikes as Stanley walked Oliver to load the bases. It didn't get better for the Blazers as Zakk White entered the game but he issued a four-pitch walk to Obermark tying the game at four. White would walk another one home before being lifted from Dom DeMasi. DeMasi would get out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts.

Holding a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth, Jake Ezell entered the game for the Cougars but issued an 11-pitch walk to Cruz to begin the inning. After a single, Thompson doubled into the left-centerfield gap scoring Cruz from second tying the game at five.

With the go-ahead run on third, Ezell battled back striking out back-to-back hitters using his fastball. However, a single back up the middle by Reed plated two putting the Blazers in front 7-5.

Both pitching staffs got in the groove until the seventh as the Cougars made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh as Mike McClellan sent his 10th home run just over the left-centerfield fence making it a 7-6 game.

It remained a 7-6 contest until Valdosta State put the game away by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth. An error began the trouble for the Cougars as Clint Carr reached base via a fielding error. Taylor Cato wouldn't make things easier from himself issuing a walk before a VSU sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. CSU would then load the bases after intentionally walking Bryant Hayman to set up a double play to try to get out of the inning. However, Matthew Fears spoiled the plan lacing a double down the right field line scoring two.

Following the double, Cruz iced the game with a chopper up the middle that made it an 11-6 game. The Blazers added one more run in the inning on a wild pitch.

Collins was 3-for-5 for Columbus State with a double and two RBI. Obermark also drove in a pair after a 1-for-3 performance.

McClellan was 1-for-5 with a homer increasing his on-base streak to 34 games.

CSU used nine pitchers in the game with Pistey getting the start. He allowed four runs (one earned) over two innings. Sean Muller, Robert Hayes, Jordan Villhauer and Shawn Thomas all pitched scoreless innings for the Cougars.

Cruz was 3-for-4 with two RBI while also scoring three times for the Blazers. Reed drove in three as well for Valdosta State.

DeMasi (7-3) got the win tossing 5.2 innings in relief for VSU. He struck out six while allowing just one run on four hits.

Columbus State will look to claim the program's third Peach Belt Conference regular season championship this weekend traveling to Dahlonega for a three-game series against North Georgia with a single game on Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday.