The Braves faced off with the Cougar of Columbus State University in a Peach Belt Conference weekend series from Mar.8-10 on Sammy Cox Field and came away victorious after the conclusion of the third game on Sunday. It truly was a battle between these to conference foes as both teams traded wins in the first two games before the Black and Gold captured the final triumph and the series in game three.
The Braves got a complete game outing from senior right-handed pitcher Nile Ball and would go on a three-inning scoring tear to secure their second straight conference victory over the conference-leading and No.3 nationally-ranked Cougars, snapping their 10-game winning streak.
Redshirt senior Elijah Helton broke the game wide open for the Braves with his leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth on the very first pitch from All-American pitcher Kolton Ingram. The Black and Gold would record a total of 12 hits on the day and score seven more runs following Helton’s spark that ignited their offense.
Day two’s game was much closer than the previous contest and ended in as dramatic of fashion as one would or could imagine in the bottom of the ninth inning. The game was tied at 3-3 entering the final frame. While the Braves managed to log a run in the third, fourth and eighth inning, the Cougars scored a trio of runs all in the sixth inning.
Columbus State would break the tie with a pair of run in the top of the ninth inning to take the lead, but the Braves were primed to take the lead and the victory with the bases loaded and only one out on the board before the Cougars dialed in and turned a beautiful double play to secure the win.
It was an ominous start to the final game of the series for the Braves after they found themselves down early looking up from a 4-0 hole but after surrendering five hits that lead to the early deficit redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Tanner Routh settled down and locked in.
“Once Tanner settled in, he gave us a chance,” said Head Coach Paul O’Neil about being in the hole early. “That was the main thing. Those first two innings, yes were down four to nothing but then he put up a crucial zero, and by him being able to put continuous zeros up through six [innings]…that allowed us a chance to get the offense going.”
He kept the Cougars at bay over the next three innings while the Braves’ offense found their footing and warmed up. The game had a familiar feel to it as the two teams were tied at 4-4 through six innings.
Just when it seemed like yesterday’s outcome was doomed to repeat itself with Columbus State taking the lead with a run in the top of the seventh, the Black and Gold offense erupted in the bottom of the inning for a whopping six runs that swung the momentum back in the favor of the home team and would ultimately secure the three-game series victory.
“Once the offense got going, we tied the game and it went from there. They went ahead and we came back and so forth,” said O’Neil.