COLUMBUS STATE 9 USC AIKEN 8
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
FLORENCE — Four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning weren’t enough, as the USC Aiken softball team was bounced from the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament with a 9-8 loss to Columbus State Friday.
The loss in the event played on teh campus of Francis marion University came with a rare bad outing from starting pitcher India Kornegay (22-4), who surrendered nine runs on four hits and nine walks in 4? innings. She notched 10 strikeouts but gave up a pair of home runs under water-logged conditions.
Head coach Jerry Snyder said that a pouring rain made it hard for either pitcher to find a grip on the softball.
“It was raining so hard, the frogs were drowning,” Snyder said. “I asked the home plate umpire to call the game, even though we were losing. ... Neither pitcher could throw strikes, and when you did, it was right down the middle.”
Taylor Turner (10-11) picked up the win by tossing a pair of scoreless innings in relief for the Cougars (30-20).
The Pacers (32-14) struck first in the bottom of the second, when All-PBC selection Kaitlyn White tripled home Brittney Williamson, Magan Thrower and Madison Labrador for a 3-0 lead.
That lead stood until the top of the fourth, when Lindsey Defee – who also pitched 3? innings scattered over three appearances in the circle – drilled a two-run homer to left center.
The Cougars took the lead for good in the top of the fifth – a seven-run frame that included four hits, an error and five walks. One walk and one hit were surrendered by Taylor Morgan, who relieved Kornegay after the senior walked three consecutive batters.
The Pacers took a run back on a passed ball in the sixth inning, but left the bases loaded.
USCA got one more chance in the bottom of the seventh, and Snyder’s team threatened to take advantage. After a one-out walk by pinch hitter Andrea Daring, Williamson lined out before White laced her second triple of the game. Sarah Montei brought her home when Cougar center fielder Morgan Knight dropped a fly ball on the warning track, and Samantha Chubb homered to bring the game to a one-run margin.
“It’s that no-quit team we have,” Snyder said, noting that the Cougar pitchers were facing the same issues Kornegay had earlier in the game, resulting in flat strikes across the plate. “You do that against the good hitters we have, they start teeing off on it.”
That’s as close as the Pacers got, though, as Kristen Carr came in to strike out Ashley Metts and send the Cougars to today’s 5 p.m. semifinal against the winner of a noon first-round game between Armstrong and Francis Marion.
USCA, meanwhile, will await the May 5 announcement of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional. The Pacers were ranked fifth in the most recent regional poll, and Snyder was confident they would remain in the field.
“I think we’re fine,” he said, pointing to a loss earlier in the day by Georgia College, ranked sixth in the region. “I’m pretty certain that we’re still good for that. I’d be pretty surprised if we didn’t make it.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.