05/16/08 — Cougars, Pacers victorious in Day 1 of regional

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Cougars, Pacers victorious in Day 1 of regional

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 16, 2008 4:03 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- USC Aiken pushed across a third-inning, unearned run and nipped North Georgia 1-0 during opening-round play of the 2008 NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

Lead-off batter Cody McMorris started the Pacers' rally by reaching safely on an error. Chad Jacobson moved McMorris to third with a double and the Saints conceded the run on Ken Raborn's groundout.

"I don't think anyone would have expected a 1-0 game between two teams that hit the ball so well," said North Georgia head coach Tom Cantrell. "You have to give their pitcher a lot of credit. He pitched a very good game."

USC Aiken starter Scott Wandless (9-2) overcame early control problems to clinch the mound victory. The senior left-hander logged nine strikeouts and permitted three hits.

"I was thinking that today could be my last start as a Pacer, and I was really trying to pitch for the seniors out there," said Wandless. "It was something that I wanted to do, and I went out and pitched well."

North Georgia hurler Chris Curtis (9-3) emerged the hard-luck loser. He yeilded the unearned run on four hits, recorded nine strikeouts and walked one in a complete-game effort.

The Saints, the Peach Belt Conference champions, face No. 1-ranked and regional host Mount Olive at 3 p.m. today on the soggy Scarborough Field diamond. North Georgia (41-20 overall) must win to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.

USC-Aiken (45-15) opposes defending regional champion Columbus State at 7 p.m.

"There was a lot of pitching going on out there today," said USC-Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas. "I guess you could call it a pitcher's park this afternoon. We have 28 hours before the next game, which gives us a little time to enjoy this one. We know we have to come back and play well tomorrow, and just take things one day at at time."

Columbus State 4

Belmont Abbey 1

Columbus State scored early and hung on against Belmont Abbey.

Brandon Masters' RBI triple and Brian Gordon's RBI double put the Cougars ahead 2-0 after one inning. In the second inning, the Crusader defense yielded a run-scoring passed ball and run-scoring error to make it 4-1.

"The two hits in the second inning were two tough hits to give up. Both were right over third base," said Belmont Abbey coach Kermit Smith. "If those two hits don't fall it's a 2-1 game in the ninth."

Belmont Abbey starter Andy Helms settled down and worked six scoreless frames after the first two innings. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits to go with eight strikeouts in a complete-game effort.

Columbus State ace Korey Noles improved to 13-0 this season and 18-0 overall since 2007 with an eight-inning effort. He notched 12 strikeouts and surrendered an unearned run on seven hits.

"It took me a little while to adjust to this mound, but I eventually settled in," said Noles. "My back started to tighten up late in the game, but I kept stretching between innings and battled through it."

Jason Weaver threw a scoreless ninth for his third save of the season.