MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- After a combined 27 hits and 20 runs, 22nd-ranked Columbus State University found itself with an 11-9 victory over seventh-ranked Georgia College in the rubber game of a crucial series on Saturday.
With the victory, the Cougars leave the weekend atop the Peach Belt Conference with an overall record of 28-11 and a 16-5 mark inside the conference. The Cougars have also won eight consecutive PBC series dating back to last season.
The Cougars jumped all over Georgia College starter Josh Taylor scoring four runs in the first frame. Brendan Collins and Jackson Oliver led the game off with back-to-back singles and Jimmy Obermark reached base after the Bobcats threw to the plate on a grounder. However, Collins was able to get back to third loading the bases with no outs.
Dustin Averett drove home the first run of the game on an infield single while Blake Edwards followed with a fielder's choice that made it a 2-0 game. Taylor was able to get another groundout for the second out of the frame but Blaine Miller delivered a two-out two-run single into right field.
Georgia College (26-7, 13-5 PBC) got one back in the bottom of the first but it could have been more. The Bobcats got leadoff singles by Ryan Sabalaskey and Rob Hogenkamp while Clay Ardeeser drove in Sabalaskey with a sacrifice fly. From there, Bryan Headley limited the damage getting a popup and a strikeout to end the inning.
An error proved to be costly for the Cougars an inning later as Georgia College tied the game at four. With one-out, Steve Hazel sent a triple to left field but Headley didn't allow him to score during the next at-bat getting Mike McGraw to popup. Headley got the groundball he needed to escape the jam but a throwing error extended the inning and allowed Hazel to score.
Sabalaskey followed with a two-run home run to right-centerfield to tie the game at four.
GC eventually took a 5-4 lead in the third after Taylor Hinshaw drove in a run on a groundout.
The lead didn't last long though as the Cougars responded with a six-run fourth inning. After Matt Nettles was hit by a pitch to begin the inning, Collins doubled to put two runners in scoring position for Oliver. Like he has done all year, Oliver delivered singling to left field to tie the score.
Taylor would walk Averett to load the bases for Edwards who sent a single to centerfield chasing home a pair of runs.
After Georgia College went to the pen for Josh Pape, Mike McClellan greeted him with a three-run blast over the left-centerfield wall putting the Cougars up 10-5.
The Cougars added a single run in the fifth after Nettles once again got on base to begin an inning drawing a walk. After wild pitches moved Nettles to third, Oliver lofted a fly ball to centerfield for a sacrifice fly increasing CSU's lead to 11-5.
After the rocky start, Headley calmed down pitching three straight scoreless innings to get through six. The tall righty used double plays in both the fifth and sixth innings to pitch around trouble.
Georgia College made things interesting scoring four runs to close within two of the lead. An error started it all as Hogenkamp reached base via a fielding error while a walk issued by Shawn Thomas put two on base. After a flyout, Thomas walked another hitter to load the bases before being lifted for Taylor Cato.
Cato entered the jam and allowed back-to-back singles off the bats of Hinshaw and Hazel cutting CSU's lead to 11-7. A wild pitch and a fielder's choice added two more runs to the board making it an 11-9 game.
Knowing it was a critical game, head coach Greg Appleton turned to closer Trey Watson in the eighth inning for the six-out save. Things didn't start well for the lefty as Hogenkamp singled and Ardeeser walked beginning the inning. However, Watson settled in with back-to-back strikeouts and induced a grounder to end the inning.
In the ninth, Watson retired the first two hitters he faced before Brandon Benson singled to extend the inning. After a walk, Watson got Hogenkamp to ground out to end the game.
Three players had three hits for Columbus State led by Blake Edwards who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Jackson Oliver was 3-for-4 driving in two while Mike McClellan was 2-for-5 with a three-run home run.
Bryan Headley upped his record to 7-1 allowing five runs (two earned) on seven hits. He struck out six over six while walking three. Taylor Cato earned another hold while Trey Watson recorded his seventh save pitching two scoreless innings.
Ryan Sabalaskey was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Steve Hazel added two hits for the Bobcats.
Josh Taylor (5-2) took the loss allowing nine runs over just 3.1 innings.