Cougars Outscore Top-Ranked Team to Win Conference Championship

AIKEN, S.C.-- The Columbus State Cougars scored four runs Sunday in the first and added another in the second to defeat top-ranked Georgia College & State University 8-4 in the championship game of the 2006 Peach Belt Conference Tournament here.

With the win, the Cougars improved to 41- 18 on the season while GC&SU fell to 49-10.

The Cougars jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning as Kurt McKee led the game off with a double and later scored off an RBI single from Billy Howard. Brad Shea then delivered the big blow of the inning with a two-run double to right. Trent Bianco finished the scoring with an RBI single.

The Cougars built the lead up to five runs in the second inning on an RBI single from Drew Candlin that scored Jonnie Geiger. That was enough to force GC&SU starting pitcher Ryan Tabor (L, 0-1) from the game after an inning and 2/3, allowing five runs on six hits.

The Bobcats struck back in the fourth with a pair of runs. Casey Cullen doubled with one out to score Mike Deveaux, who was one of three Bobcats hit by a pitch in the game. Cullen was moved to third on a Wes Sorrells hit, then the bases were loaded as Kyle Shisler was hit by a pitch. Tripp Burt then grounded out to third, scoring Cullen but leaving runners at second and third with two out. Columbus State starter Bryan Kilgore (W, 1-3) got out of the jam by getting Rich Janofsky to ground out to short.

The Bobcats added another run in the seventh on an RBI line drive by Hans Stancil, but again left two runners on base. The Bobcats stranded nine runners in the game.

Columbus State put the game away in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs on a bizarre play that featured two throwing errors by the GC&SU defense that, in essence, allowed McKee to circle the bases for an inside the park home run with two runners on.

Paul Able pitched the ninth inning to close the door on the Bobcats. Johnny Floyd, who was named All-Tournament, pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, his third appearance in the PBC Tournament.

CSUs Billy Howard was named the tournament Most Valuable Player after going 1-4 with a run and an RBI. Candlin, Linton, Bianco and Shea all had two hits for the Cougars. Shea was also named All-Tournament.

Justin Mills was the only Bobcat with more than one hit as he went 2- for-5. Casey Cullen, named All-Tournament, went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.

Both GC&SU and Columbus State are all but assured of spots in the NCAA South Atlantic Regional tournament, which begins next week. The tournament bracket is expected to be released on Monday morning.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GC&SU head coach Chris Calciano: Going down 5-0 at the start really hurt us. We made several bad pitches, but we had a young freshman out there doing what he could do. We chipped away at the deficit and ended up rushing it with the errors in the eighth.

The tournament will take a lot out of your ball club, but we will get some good practices in this week and perform our best at regionals.

GC&SUs Rich Janofsky (on his error in the eighth): It was a stupid play, I rushed my throw because I did not use my mental clock as the runner went down the first base side.

Columbus State head coach Greg Appleton: We really got lucky in the 8th with their error because a two-run lead is never enough against a run-scoring GC&SU team. But the key for us was (Bryan) Kilgore, because we didnt have a whole lot left of our pitching staff and he surprised me, going six innings, because he usually relieves us for three or four.

'We persevered more than anything in this tournament. It was grueling. We didnt always hit well, but we ended showing our offense at the right time and made it count.