AIKEN, S.C. – Late game heroics from both teams provided plenty of drama and action as the West third-seeded Columbus State Cougars held on to defeat the East fourth-seeded USC Aiken Pacers through an extra inning in the second semifinal game of the 2010 Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournament at Roberto Hernandez Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Cougars were able to hold on for a 10-9 win in 10 innings over the Pacers to advance to the championship game of the single elimination tournament.
Columbus State improved to 41-10 for the 2010 campaign while the Pacers drop to 32-19.
Columbus State wasted no time putting a run up on the board as they took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Alex Montes secured the run for the Cougars when he reached home off the bat of Jason Rogers who singled to right field.
The Pacers raced back out in the bottom of the inning with three runs to secure their first lead of the game. Stephen Carmon started the scoring drive, tying the game at one-a-piece when he scored all the way from first off a double by Bill Rice.
The Pacers loaded the bases over the next few batters with Rice moving over to third before he jogged home when Columbus State pitcher Ian Sebastian walked Gary Asbill. Sebastian struggled to find his groove as he walked David Vitko in similar fashion to allow Travis Howard to find the plate to give USC Aiken the 3-1 lead.
The Cougars pounced with five big runs in the top of the next inning to take the lead back 6-3.
Columbus State was able to mirror USC Aiken when they loaded the bases before Eric Skinner stepped to the plate. USC Aiken’s hurler Steven Owens walked Skinner, allowing Mitch Rider, pulling the Cougars back within one.
With the sacks still full, Montes stepped up to the plate and belted a double to drive in two runs and put the Cougars back out front. Wes Adkins and Justin Pharr raced across the plate on the play to put the score at 4-3 in favor of the Cougars.
After a pitching change for the Pacers, Skinner and found their way across the dish off a single through the right side by Ryan Lewis.
The Cougars were able to extend their lead out to 7-3 with another run in the top of the third inning when Adkins ripped a home run over the left field wall
USC Aiken fought back in the bottom of the inning to get two runs back. In a pair of familiar plays to earlier in the game, with the bases loaded, Howard and J.J. Loker both jogged across the dish when Asbill and Alex Franklin were walked to bring the score to 7-5.
Columbus State secured their fourth consecutive inning of scoring at least one run when Montes raced home off a single through the left side by Lewis.
USC Aiken worked hard at the plate over the closing innings to close the gap to send the game into extra innings.
Rice opened the bottom of the fourth inning for the Pacers with a triple to the warning track in right field to put himself in prime scoring position for Nick Aranas. Aranas put the ball in play with a grounder to the shortstop who threw him out at first, allowing Rice to race home.
Rice carried the Pacers to within one in the bottom of the sixth inning when he scored once more off a single to left field by J.J. Loker.
With the game on the line and two away in the bottom of the ninth inning, Alex Franklin stepped up big for the Pacers with a double to right-center field. Josh Attaway came in to pinch run for Franklin as Carmon stepped to the plate.
With the tying run on second base, Carmon laced a ball to left field, allowing the speedy Attaway to race home to tie the game at eight-a-piece and send the game into extra innings.
Columbus State attempted to put the game away in the top of the tenth frame as Cameron Griffin and Skinner scored two runs off a line-hugging double down the right side by Eric Weiss.
USC Aiken tried to keep their season alive in the bottom of the tenth frame, but were unable to capitalize on a bases loaded situation. Howard had pulled the Pacers to within one after lacing a double to reach base and then scored off a single by Asbill to put the final score at 10-9.
The Cougars garnered 14 hits over the course of the contest with eight batters recording at least one hit. Montes lead Columbus State at the plate going 4-for-6 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Weiss was not far behind as he went 3-for-6 with two RBIs of his own.
USC Aiken out-hit the Cougars 16-14 in a contest that saw six Pacers record multiple hits. Howard led the Pacers going 4-for-6 with three RBIs while Rice went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and one RBI.
Wade Dudley earned his 10th save of the season while Logan Foster recorded the win on the hill for Columbus State. Foster fanned five batters in just over six innings of work to move to 5-1 for the season.
Cory Dobbins took the loss for USC Aiken striking out a seven batters in just over seven innings. He is now .500 on the season at 1-1.
Columbus State advances to the PBC Tournament championship game to be contested Sunday evening. The Cougars will face the West fourth-seeded Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern who advanced to their first ever PBC Tournament championship game by besting Flagler College earlier in the day. The two will square off on the diamond at around 7 p.m. at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.