CSU baseball drops PBC tournament opener

FLORENCE, S.C. – The fourth-seeded Columbus State University baseball team fell 5-0 on Wednesday night to fifth-seeded UNC Pembroke in the opening round of the PeachBelt Conference Tournament. The tournament is being played at Sparrow Stadium at Francis Marion.

The loss puts the Cougars into the loser’s bracket where they will have an elimination game Thursday against eighth-seeded Georgia Southwestern. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.

“We just couldn’t find a hit when we needed it tonight,” head coach Greg Appleton said. “Caleb (Kutsche) was great for eight innings, but give UNC Pembroke a lot of credit. They had two guys that came out and got the big outs when we had runners on.”

Caleb Kutsche got the ball rolling for the Cougars Wednesday night, striking out the side in the top of the first. The Cougar offense then picked up a pair of hits in the bottom half of the inning, but had one caught stealing and left the other on.

While Kutsche kept dealing on the mound, the CSU offense continued to litter the base paths with runners.

Justin Evans singled on the infield with two away in the third and proceeded to steal second. The attempt to throw out Evans sailed to centerfield and the sophomore moved up to third. However, a fly out ended the inning and kept the game scoreless.

Columbus State’s (29-20) biggest threat of the night came in the fourth inning. Turner Vincent was hit by a pitch to start the frame, but was forced out on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Lake Hart.

Austin Collins singled through the left side to put runners at first and second, and a high chopper gave Grant Berry an infield single that loaded the bases. Searching for the opening run, Bryce Delevie sent a ball in the air to shallow right. Hart tagged up on the catch, but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

UNC Pembroke (38-13) finally broke through in the seventh behind a leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly.

After a scoreless eighth, the Braves tacked out four more insurance runs in the ninth to stretch the game out to its final margin.

CSU mounted one last offensive charge in the ninth getting leadoff singles from Collins and Berry, but a double play ended the night.

Kutsche (10-3) took the loss despite the strong effort. The senior allowed just one run over his first eight innings before surrendering four in the ninth. He finished with five runs in 8.1 innings, striking out 10.

Collins and Berry each had great nights at the plate for the Cougars. Both were 3-for-4, while Tyler Fichter turned in a two-hit game.

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