The run to a conference championship came up one win short for the Columbus State University softball team, as the Lady Cougars fell 4-0 to No. 1 North Georgia in Saturday’s Peach Belt Conference Tournament finale.
The Cougars had won the first game Saturday morning as Darby Demarest and Helen Snavely combined to no-hit Georgia College in a 4-0 semi-final victory.
Columbus State (33-19) must now wait to find out if it receives an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The postseason field will be announced Monday morning at 10 a.m. on NCAA.com.
The Lady Cougars moved to 5-5 all-time in PBC Championship games. Elizabeth Perdue, Darby Demarest and Kirstin Reynolds were all named to the PBC All-Tournament Team.
“I’m really proud of the way this team played this weekend,” CSU coach Brad Huskisson said. “We’ve had a really good season and I hope, especially for this group of seniors, that we still have more games to play.”
It was CSU’s 11th appearance in a conference championship game and the team’s fourth in the last seven years. But in the afternoon game against home-standing North Georgia, the Lady Cougars ran into a buzz-saw, going up against the PBC Pitcher of the Year. CSU managed just three base runners in the game, with Kia Smith picking up the team’s lone hit.
Smith notched her hit to open up the fourth, and again a sacrifice bunt pushed her to scoring position. Perdue then scorched the first pitch she saw, but it was right at the shortstop for an out.
McKenzie Fagioli got to second to start the final inning, thanks to a throwing error. However, the Lady Cougars were again unable to bring the leadoff runner around to score.
North Georgia (56-2) hit a pair of two-run home runs, one in the third and another in the sixth, to account for their offensive output.
After pitching six no-hit innings earlier in the day, Demarest (15-10) got the start again in the championship game. The junior allowed all four runs in a complete-game effort, giving up four hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Demarest was brilliant in the first game of the day striking out four. Snavely came on following a lead-off walk in the seventh and picked up the final three outs. The no-hitter is just the fifth in the 25-year history of the PBC Tournament.
“What can you say about Darby and Helen in the circle today,” Huskisson said. “That’s a really good Georgia College team and Darby had really good stuff. Helen then came out in a big spot and did a great job of finishing it off.”
The Lady Cougars didn’t need much offense Saturday morning, and got all that it would need in the very first inning. Kia Smith singled with one out and McKenzie Fagioli reached via a throwing error. PBC Player of the Year Elizabeth Perdue then blasted a three-run homer to straightaway centerfield to give CSU more than enough cushion.
Columbus State had runners on base throughout the day, but the only other scoring came from a JoJo Beyer sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth. Demarest and Snavely took care of the rest in the circle.
Georgia College (36-14) had its best scoring chance of the day in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs after three walks. Demarest battled deep in an eight-pitch at-bat, but was able to coax a foul pop up to keep the no-hitter and shutout intact.
Kirstin Reynolds had a 3-for-4 game as part of the nine-hit Lady Cougar attack. Smith, Perdue and Lee Anne Rees had two hits apiece to account for the rest of the offense.