GREENWOOD, S.C. -- It only took one swing of the bat for Columbus State and Mike McClellan. In a 2-2 game in the bottom of the ninth, McClellan crushed a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall lifting the 10th-ranked Cougars to a 3-2 win against 13th-ranked USC Aiken in the opening game of the Southeast Regional.
"This was just a great postseason baseball game," commented head coach Greg Appleton. "USC Aiken is a great team and we knew it was going to be a battle from the start."
"The three home runs we had bailed us out because we left some runs on the bases earlier in the game."
Columbus State didn't waste any time getting on the board. After a quick top of the first inning for Caden Ferguson, Brendan Collins ripped the third pitch he saw down the left field line keeping the ball fair for his fourth homer of the year.
Jackson Oliver followed with a hard hit ball up the middle that Sean Miller grabbed but couldn't get enough on his throw allowing Oliver to collect an infield single. However, Derek Beasley induced a double play and fly out to end the inning.
In the top of the second, USC Aiken had a chance to tie the game after Ferguson struggled with his command putting two on with just one out on the board. The lefty eventually regained his composure striking out Dylan Durham to strand the two base runners.
McClellan showed his power in the bottom half of the frame drilling a ball over the right-centerfield wall for his first home run of the day to make it a 2-0 CSU advantage.
The Pacers responded in the third putting a run on the board. With one out, Kody Belcher hit a long double to straightaway centerfield that sailed over Collins' head for USCA's first hit of the game. During the following at-bat, Ferguson threw a wild pitch that pushed Belcher to third allowing Miller to loft a fly ball to right field for a sacrifice fly.
In the following inning, USC Aiken had an opportunity to tie the game as Ryan Metzler laced a one-out double down into the left field corner. Ferguson got the second out of the inning before hitting Matt Bosse with a pitch to put two runners on.
However, similar to the second inning, Ferguson dug deep a got a clutch strikeout to escape the jam.
USC Aiken's best chance to break open the game came in the fifth inning. Ferguson began the inning by plunking Charles Padilla with a pitch before Belcher pushed a great bunt passed Ferguson that second baseman Jimmy Obermark had no play on putting the Cougars in a dangerous situation.
Looking to advance both runners, the Pacers attempted to bunt again but this time Miller bunted the ball up into the air allowing Blake Edwards to grab it for the first out of the inning. Ferguson would then get back-to-back popups to leave two more USCA runners on base.
Looking to use the momentum, Carson Bowers began the bottom of the fifth off with a hard hit single throw the left side of the infield. Matt Nettles sacrifice him to second setting up a good scoring chance for CSU with the top of the order coming to the plate. The Cougars couldn't capitalize though leaving Bowers standing on third after two groundouts.
An inning later, the Cougars looked to have an insurance run until a great defensive effort by USC Aiken thwarted the opportunity. With one out, Dustin Averett scorched a ball down the third base line that hit the bag and bounced into left field for a single chasing Beasley from the game.
Taylor Peed would enter the game to face the hot hitting McClellan. Peed fell behind the righty 3-1 before McClellan ripped a double into the left-centerfield gap. Averett got the green light to try and score on the gapper but a great relay gunned the catcher down at the plate keeping it a 2-1 game.
The Pacers would then use small ball in the seventh to tie the game as Durham pushed another bunt passed Ferguson on the mound for an infield single to begin the inning. After a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, Durham was on third with just one out.
CSU decided to bring the infield in in an attempt to keep the lead. However, Belcher hit a hard ball back up the middle that Obermark couldn't react in time to tying the game at two.
USC Aiken would add another bunt single before a line out and a pop out got Ferguson and the Cougars out of the jam.
After Ferguson issued a leadoff walk to Metzler in the eighth, Appleton decided to bring in his closer Trey Watson. Watson got the first out of the inning after a failed sacrifice bunt before striking out back-to-back hitters to end the side.
The Cougars had a chance to retake the lead in the bottom half of the inning after Collins laid down a bunt that Ben Donath misplayed at third. A balk moved him to second but Peed got a groundout and two strikeouts to leave Collins standing at second.
Before the top of the ninth started, rain came back into the Greenwood area forcing a 68-minute delay. When the game was restarted, Watson had a perfect inning handing things back over to the Cougar offense.
It didn't take long for the bats to do their job as McClellan crushed a 2-0 pitch from Peed over the left field wall for the walkoff home run.
McClellan paced the Cougar attack going 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double. He had three RBIs while scoring two runs. Blake Edwards also had a multi-hit day going 2-for-3 with a double.
Ferguson pitched seven strong innings allowing two runs on six hits. He struck out four while walking three in the no-decision. Watson improved to 5-1 after pitching two perfect innings.
For the Pacers, Belcher was 3-for-5 with a double and a RBI.
Peed (6-2) took the loss allowing just the solo homer in 2.2 innings. He struck out four. Beasley pitched 5.1 innings allowing two runs on seven hits.