May 10, 2008

Saints down Cougars, advance to PBC Championship

North Georgia will face Francis Marion with title on the line

AIKEN, SC - North Georgia College & State University's Rob Flanigan launched two massive home runs and the Saints defense held the powerful CSU offense in check as they won 5-3, eliminating the Cougars and securing as spot in the championship game of the PBC Tournament.

The Saints, in their first PBC Tournament since joining the PBC, will need to win one of the two possible games tomorrow against Francis Marion University as they enter the championship round without a loss.

The Saints (40-19) got on the board first in the bottom of the first as Rob Flanigan hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to center. But in the warm air, the ball carried and drifted over the center field wall for a solo home run.

The Saints added two more in the second. After Josh Tate singled to start the frame, Chad Sage belted an 0-1 pitch of the left field wall to make the score 3-0. Those were the only two mistakes made early by CSU starter Phillip Robinson (L, 5-3), who settled down to retire 13 of the next 14 Saint batters he faced.

Columbus State began their comeback in the third with a single run on an RBI single from Jonnie Geiger. The Cougars could have had more with runners on second and third with one out, but a Rutherford ball hit between second and third hit Geiger as he was running between the bases, negating the run scored by Casey Cook and giving the Saints two outs. NGCSU starter Michael Patton (W, 7-2) then induced a groundout to end the inning.

But the Cougars were not done as they plated two more runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game. Cole Martin began the frame by sending the second pitch he saw over the left field fence for a solo home run. A Brandon Masters single later in the inning scored Cook to tie the game at three.

But the game would not be tied for long as Flanigan came to bat again in the bottom of the sixth and hit the first pitch from Robinson over the right field fence. North Georgia added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single from Kevin Morrison that scored Sage.

CSU threatened in the eighth as Patton walked the first two batters he faced and was lifted for reliever Jacob Rickett. Cook tried to bunt the runners over for CSU, but Rickett fielded the ball and threw out Shaun Spearman at third. Geiger then ground into an inning-ending double play.

The double play again came into play in the ninth as Masters walked for CSU to begin the frame, but was caught in a 6-4-3 double play that Rodney Rutherford hit into. A line out to left field ended the game.

Flanigan finished his big night 2-for-3 with his two solo home runs. Sage was 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs while Tate also collected two hits.

Geiger, Masters and Martin all had multiple hits and one RBI each for the Cougars. CSU stranded 10 baserunners in the game.

The PBC championship game is scheduled for Sunday at noon against Francis Marion University with a if-necessary game to follow at 4:00 p.m.

Quotes: North Georgia Head Coach Tom Cantrell
- Opening statement: "I can't say enough about the way our kids came out and played again tonight. Sitting here the only undefeated team, and tonight was probably the best game of the tournament. Their kid (Phillip) Robinson pitched great, we got a couple of runs early. Other than some walks that led to some walks, Michael (Patton) pitched through some jams. It was a great effort on our part, it was a fun game to be a part of. It was a good college baseball game, a good Division II game."

- On Sunday with the weather forecast and regional implications: "Right now I am not very happy about what I know. I do not think it is right, but what I think is right and the way it is are two different things. I do not know how we are not one of the best six teams to go to the regional right now. We've won every game here and 22 of our last 25 since April 1. I have no control over the weather. Hopefully we have done enough to put ourselves where we need to be, it would be a travesty to North Georgia and these kids if they do not get a chance to go on."

Freshman pitcher Michael Patton

- On your performance as a freshman on a big stage: "Just tried to give my team a chance. They hit the fastball real well so I tried to keep them off-balance. We are hitting the ball the best I have seen, so I just wanted to give us a chance."

- On your defense behind you, especially up the middle with Osters and Sharett: "They have been great all year. Anders (Oster) is unbelievable out there and Logan is hitting the ball and playing the field. It is a good mix and they are playing good right now."

Senior first baseman Rob Flanigan
- On your two solo home runs: "The first at-bat I got fooled on a pitch and he came back with one right down the middle and I just hit it out. My second at bat I struck out and the first pitch in that at-bat he threw me a fastball. I figured in my third at-bat he would try to blow the same pitch by me and I hit it."

- On Josh Tate and Chad Sage breaking out of their slumps: "Chad (Sage) told me he was struggling and I talked to him and told him to relax a little, he calmed down. He is one of the most talented players I have seen. They are going through slumps like all hitters do, but they are great hitters so they will come out of it."