TIGERVILLE, SC – Austin Pharr launched two home runs as the Columbus State Cougars hit four as a team to beat top-seeded North Greenville 6-3 in an elimination game at the NCAA southeast regional on Sunday night. After waiting through a five-hour rain delay, the Cougars eliminated the host Crusaders and advance to the final round of the regional where they will meet unbeaten Belmont Abbey on Monday at 2:00 pm. The one-loss Cougars will have to beat BAC twice to earn a spot in the NCAA national championships in Cary, N.C.
As they had done all region long, the Cougars (42-13) jumped out early with a solo home run in the top of the first. Mason McClellan launched his 10thof the year with two out. Robert Brooks then came up in the second with one out and put one over the wall in left center.
Pharr led off the fourth with his 16thhome run of the year, then hit number 17 with a runner on and two outs in the fifth. His fourth-inning blast went to left center while his shot in the fifth went down the right-field line.
With the CSU offense in full swing, Cougar starter T.J. Clark (W, 7-3) was in control on the mound. The junior righthander carried a no-hitter through five innings, allowing only a pair of walks and striking out eight.
North Greenville (46-9) finally broke through in the sixth. A leadoff single, NGU's first hit of the game, led to an RBI single from Utah Jones, who later scored on John Jones' sacrifice fly. The Crusaders added another run in the seventh after a wild pitch and throwing error on the same play allowed a runner to come around from second base.
The Cougars answered with a run in the top of the eighth as Drew Webb went all the way to third base on NGU's lone error of the game. He scored when Grant Berry sent a double to the wall in left field.
Payton Phillips (S, 4) started the eighth in relief of Clark for the Cougars and limited the Crusaders to one walk and no hits while striking out four. He retired the side in order in the ninth to send CSU on to the next round.
Columbus State will be looking for their fourth World Series appearance when they take the field on Monday against Belmont Abbey. The Cougars reached the NCAA national championship game in 2007 and won the title in 2002.