NCAA Tournament: Saints Walk-Off Columbus State 2-1, Advance to Regional Championship
DAHLONEGA, GA – Down to their final three outs in game three of the NCAA Southeast Regional, 11th-ranked and top-seeded North Georgia battled back to score two runs and walk-off with a 2-1 victory over 5th-seeded Columbus State at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.
With just one hit over the first six innings, the Saints had one last chance against the Cougars and made the most of the seventh inning. Rochelle Shuman led off the frame and struck out, but reached base on the play, the first of a series of costly mistakes by the Cougars. Hilary Cox followed and grounded out to second, but Nina Rubio booted the grounder and the Saints were in business with two on and no outs.
After a fielder's choice for the first out of the inning, Katherine Martin laced a grounder to third that was thrown wildly to first by Kristen Gregory to load the bases. Sarah Johnson followed and singled to second to plate the tying run and keep the bases load for Kayla Minger.
With Minger looking for some walk-off magic, the junior grounded out to first and the Cougars came home for the force out. Casey Googe then fired down to first attempting for the inning-ending double play, but the throw hit off the diving Minger and rolled into right field to bring Martin racing home for the winning run and walk-off victory. In total, the Cougars committed four errors in the seventh inning.
With the win, the Saints (47-8) advance to the Southeast Dahlonega Regional Championship game on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. North Georgia is undefeated over the last three years in regional play, winning their 14th consecutive game over the last four years.
Columbus State drops their first game since the middle of April as they fall to 40-19 on the year. The Cougars will look to fight back in the loser's bracket, as they will play in game five of the tournament on Saturday evening against Augusta State or King College.
The Cougars got their only run of the game in the third inning when a passed ball brought Branigan Wix racing home to give Columbus the early lead.
The Saints were held hitless until the sixth inning when Tiffanie Burns lined a clean single up the middle to break up the perfect game by Mollie Russell, but Burns was stranded at second later in the frame when Pilar Harden scorched a liner up the middle that was snagged by the leaping Morgan Knight in center field.
Tossing another gem in the circle was true freshman Melissa Dickie (20-0) who came out and allowed just two hits and no earned runs to stay perfect on the year. Making her NCAA Tournament debut, Dickie allowed a pair of hits in the third inning before retiring the Cougars in order over the final four innings.
Russell (21-11) was the tough-luck loser for Columbus State, allowing just two hits and two unearned runs. She tallied one strikeout and did not issue a walk.