AMERICUS, Ga. – As the race to secure a position in the Peach Belt Conference tournament begins to wind down, the Georgia Southwestern Lady Hurricanes were looking to improve their chances by any means necessary. Saturday's double header versus the Columbus State University Cougars (27-17, 6-8) saw the Blue & Gold take advantage of half of their opportunities in the 1-6, 2-1 split.
GAME ONE: Georgia Southwestern-1 Columbus State University-6
The victory in game one of the day by the Cougars was an open and shut case. CSU would score in the top of the first inning and never trail throughout the game. Columbus State's Mollie Russell would keep the Hurricanes at bay in the win. The junior pitched six innings giving up five hits, one earned run, five walks and three strikeouts. Her five walks were not capitalized on by the GSW offense as the 'Canes left nine runners on base in game one.
The lead was taken in the first inning by CSU's Kara Gordon's RBI single, which drove in Morgan Knight. The slim one-run lead was pushed to four runs with the three-run second inning. The scoring run was capped by Kristen Gregory's two-run home run over the centerfield fence.
GSW's only run would come in the second inning off the bat of Mason Moreland who slapped a pitch the opposite way past the Cougar left side of the infield. Her single would bring home Katie Wooten, which cut the lead down to three runs. That would prove to be the closest GSW would come for the rest of the game.
The two insurance runs for the visitors would come in the fifth and sixth innings via shortstop Kara Gordon and pinch hitter Lucy Lamb.
The first through fourth hitters for GSW accounted for five of the team's hit. The quartet was led by Hayley Knight who was the only Hurricane hitter with multiple hits.
GAME TWO: Georgia Southwestern-2 Columbus State University-1
"Hurricane Heartbreak" has been a painful alliteration for the Lady 'Canes this season. Six times the Lady Hurricanes have lost by one run, which includes a handful of games lost in the final inning. However in game two of the day, it was the Blue & Gold that doled out the heartbreak.
Columbus State got off to a commanding start on the arm of repeat PBC Freshman of the Week Tara Turner. Turner would retire the first twelve batters she faced in order, which included five strikeouts in the first four innings of the game. She would be given a one-run lead in the third inning when Casey Googe would double to left field scoring Nina Rubio from third base.
The Hurricanes would get their first hit off Turner in the fifth inning when Avery Purser hit a lead-off double to also give the Lady 'Canes their first runner in scoring position. The fifth inning would prove to just be a threat and nothing more as Purser would never get passed third base.
A pair of singles in the sixth by Jessica Chewning and Mason Moreland saw GSW get half of their four total hits in one inning. Yet just as she had in the inning before, Tara Turner would get out of the inning unscathed.
The same could not be said in the seventh inning.
Columbus State Head Coach Brad Huskisson elected to go to the bullpen in the one-run game and brought in the winner in the previous game, Mollie Russell, for the save opportunity. Russell, who had struggled with her command in game one with five walks, would get off on the wrong foot in the seventh with a lead-off walk to Gabby Buck. The free pass was compounded in the next at-bat as Purser hit into what should have been a fielder's choice with the force out at second. Kristen Gregory's throw to second base from third would be high allowing Buck to reach safely. With two on, Coach Eddie Ward elected to insert a pair of pinch runners (Katie Maddox and Erin Vick).
The troublesome situation for Russell would be compounded when she threw a wild pitch to Rachel McElroy that allowed Maddox and Vick to move to third and second. McElroy would go down without incident as her groundball to second was not deep enough to give Maddox the chance to score. She would get her chance in the next at-bat on a Katie Wooten fielder's choice to Casey Googe at shortstop, but Maddox would be gunned down by Googe at the plate.
With runners on the corners and two outs, Ashley Cavender would step to the plate with a chance to deliver. The freshman designated player would deliver the goods on a game-winning double. The left-handed Cavender would drive the ball to left center field. The shot would sail just by CSU's Branigan Wix's glove. The shot would easily score Vick from third, and then the ball rolled on deeper into left. Wooten would round third and score as the throw from the outfield would reach the infield as the Hurricanes rushed Cavender at second capping the walk-off win.
The win was powered by senior pitcher Jessica Martin. Martin limited Columbus State to just one earned run in her seven innings on four hits with four walks and six strikeouts. The victory gave the senior from Woodstock her eighth win of the season, which is a career high for wins in a season in her four-year career.
Sophomore Mason Moreland would single in both games to add to her streak at the plate. She has now reached base safely in 16 consecutive games after having a streak of twelve games snapped earlier in the season.
The split with the Cougars pushes the Georgia Southwestern record to 18-26 (3-13 PBC). The Lady Hurricanes enter their last week of the season. They will open their stretch of eight games in five days with their last home non-conference double header of the season. GSW will play host to the Lady Barons of Brewton-Parker College on Tuesday, April 10th at 3:00 p.m. The Lady Hurricanes swept Brewton-Parker 2-1, 3-2 back in February.