COLUMBUS – Third-ranked North Georgia jumped on the Columbus State University baseball team scoring four runs in the first three innings and then went on to defeat the Cougars 5-3 to even the three-game Peach Belt Conference series. The game took place at Burger King Stadium at Ragsdale Field.
The Nighthawks (31-8, 15-5 PBC) scored a single run in the first and second before taking a 4-0 lead in the third.
“They just jumped on us early and its hard to rebound when a guy has his best stuff like their pitcher did today,” said head coach Greg Appleton. “We will just have to get ready to come out here tomorrow to try to win this series.”
UNG didn’t waste anytime getting to Cougar starter Brandon Koehler as the leadoff batter rattled a double into the right-centerfield gap. Koehler limited the damage to just one after picking off a runner and fly out to strand a runner on.
The Nighthawks would then use the home run ball to extend their lead. UNG got a solo homer to left-center in the second while a two-run shot in the third made it a 4-0 game. In the fifth, a double resulted in UNG’s fifth run of the game.
It took awhile for the Cougar bats to get going as Austin Collins broke up a perfect game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. CSU’s first scoring chance came an inning later with Grant Berry doubling to start the frame before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Gunar Drinnen. Tyler Fichter would then cash in on the RBI chance lofting a fly ball for a sacrifice fly.
Columbus State (24-15, 12-8) had a chance to make things closer in the eighth, but failed to capitalize. Fichter had a one-out single before Evans walked and Lake Hart was hit by a pitch to load the bases. However, a fielder’s choice stranded the bases loaded.
The Cougars had one last rally left in them in the ninth as Collins walked and Drew Webb reached on a fielding error. After a groundout that put both runners in scoring position, Jamal Howard punched a single into right field making it a 5-2 game. CSU would push another run across after a Fichter fielder’s choice, but a strikeout ended the game.
Fichter was 1-for-4 for the Cougars with two RBIs while Evans, Collins, Berry and Howard each had a hit.
Koehler (4-2) allowed five runs on eight hits in his five innings of work. Jalen Latta pitched three scoreless innings in relief picking up three strikeouts while Jacob Boccucci tossed a scoreless ninth.
Columbus State and North Georgia will play the rubber game of the three-game series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.