Lady Cougars Claim Conference Softball Title with 4-1 Win

COLUMBUS, Ga. —  Columbus State University's Lady Cougars defeated North Georgia 4-1 Sunday in the Peach Belt Conference championship game after CSU's Mollie Russell allowed just one hit and an unearned run, and Casey Googe blasted a three-run homer to propel Columbus State.

It's the fourth PBC title for the Lady Cougars, who last won one in 2007, the same year they advanced to the College World Series. As PBC champs, Columbus State received the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which opens Friday, May 4.

Columbus State and North Georgia have now combined to win seven of the last eight Peach Belt softball crowns as the Saints had won the previous three and were making their fifth straight appearance in the title game. Sunday's game was the first time in PBC Tournament history that a team won every game in the tournament as the lowest seed in the matchup.

Neither team picked up a hit until the third inning, when CSU's Kristen Gregory singled to rightfield.  After the next two batters were retired, Columbus State's Morgan Knight worked a two-out walk. That set the stage for Googe, who launched a 2-2 pitch to straightaway centerfield that hit the back wall enclosing the Cougar Field complex.  It was Googe's 21st long ball of the season, allowing her to take sole possession of the single-season PBC record and keep her one behind the national leader.

The Lady Cougars tacked on another run an inning later that began with a Kori Waugh double to right-centerfield.  Taylor Turner then laced a single up the middle that plated Waugh and gave the tournament host's a 4-0 advantage.

With one out in the bottom of the frame, Karlie Gilliam picked up North Georgia's lone hit of the contest flaring one between the third baseman and shortstop into shallow leftfield.  A walk put two runners on and a passed ball advanced both into scoring position.

Russell struck out the next batter and induced a grounder to get out of the jam. She continued to cruise through the next two innings before the Saints put another rally attempt in the seventh.  NGA again got a pair of runners on to start off the frame as Katherine Martin and Sarah Johnson both drew walks.  A wild pitch advanced both runners into scoring position before a passed ball scored the only run for the Saints.

North Georgia's Tiffanie Burns fouled out for the second out before a grounder to Nina Rubio ended the contest. 

Offensively, Columbus State banged out seven hits, led by Googe's 2-for-4, three RBI performance. Turner had the other RBI for the Lady Cougars as she went 1-for-3.  Russell (20-10) allowed an unearned run, giving up just one hit and five walks. She also struck out three batters.

For the tournament, Mollie Russell gave up just a pair of unearned runs, holding opponents to just a .110 batting average. Taylor Turner led the team with a .444 batting average while Kori Waugh (.429) and Casey Googe (.400) also hit at least .400. Googe drove in six runs while hitting a pair of homeruns.

Russell, Turner and Googe were all named to the All-Tournament team while Russell grabbed MVP honors.

The field for the NCAA Tournament will be announced April 30. For a complete breakdown of the region's game, visit www.csucougars.com.

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