Lady Cougar Softball Team Ready for NCAA Tournament
Dahlonega – Riding high on a seven-game winning streak and its first Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship since 2007, the Columbus State University softball team will play in its first NCAA Tournament in five years when they take the field against Augusta State Friday, May 4 at 3:30 p.m.
The Lady Cougars are the fifth-seed in the Southeast Region and are playing in the Dahlonega regional hosted by top-seeded North Georgia. The Saints will take on eight-seeded King at 6 p.m. on Friday in the other first round matchup.
Powered by a potent offensive attack and strong pitching, the Lady Cougars are poised to make a long run in this year's NCAA Tournament. CSU has blasted 68 homeruns this season, the most in Peach Belt Conference history. Casey Googe leads the barrage with 21 bombs of her own, which is also a PBC single-season record. With the 21 home runs, the sophomore has the third most round-trippers in the nation just two behind the national leader.
The power is up and down the Lady Cougar order as four other CSU players have seven or more home runs including Morgan Knight who has 11.
Nina Rubio gets things started for Columbus State batting .291 in the leadoff spot. She has crossed the plate 34 times this season and has an on-base percentage of .368.
In the circle, the Lady Cougars may have the most dominating pitcher in the Southeast Region with Mollie Russell. The junior has the lowest ERA in the PBC (0.91), the third most wins (20), third most strikeouts (182) and has tossed 14 shutouts, the fifth most in the nation.
During the PBC Tournament, Russell pitched 21 innings allowing just two unearned runs. She punched out 11 batters and held the opponents to a .110 batting average. For her efforts, she was named the Tournament MVP.
Augusta State will be returning to the postseason for the fourth straight season and the fifth time in the past six years. The Jaguars will enter play with a 31-16 record and have lost four out of the last five games including falling in the first round of the PBC Tournament to USC Aiken.
ASU is led offensively by senior shortstop Kacee Camp. A first team All-PBC selection, Camp is hitting .382 this season with 12 doubles, four home runs and 27 RBIs. She has an on-base percentage of .440 and has stolen 11 bags. Her batting average is the fifth best in the PBC.
The power in the Augusta State's lineup comes from another All-Conference member, Jessica Thornton. Thornton leads the team in home runs with six and RBIs with 34. She is also a threat to run when she gets on base as she is 26-for-29 in stolen base attempts.
Emily Headrick should get the nod for the Jaguars against Columbus State on Friday. Headrick, an All-PBC second team selection, has a 16-6 record this season with an earned run average of 2.13. She has thrown 147.2 innings so far this year including tossing 13 complete games with five shutouts. Headrick has outstanding control striking out 109 batters to just 47 walks.
This season, Columbus State and Augusta State has played three times with ASU holding a 2-1 edge. In a non-conference tilt earlier in the season, the Jaguars edged the Lady Cougars 8-6 in nine innings. CSU made two key errors in the ninth that allowed Augusta State to push across the winning runs.
In a conference doubleheader played on March 16, ASU took game one 4-2 scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth after Columbus State was ahead 2-0. The Lady Cougars rebounded in game two taking a 2-1 victory behind great pitching performances by Taylor Turner and Kelsey Gilliam. Turner started the contest pitching 4.1 innings of one-run ball before Gilliam picked up the win tossing 2.1 innings.
The game will be played at Haines and Carolyn Hill Stadium at 3;30 p.m. in Dahlonega, GA. Live stats and live video stream will be available at csucougars.com. Also, make sure to follow CSU athletics on twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.