FLORENCE, S.C. – Junior lefthander Jason Nicholas (Wright City, Mo.) tossed the first shutout of his Bobcat career as the No. 3-seed and No. 9-ranked Georgia College & State University baseball team (37-15) upset No. 2-seed and No. 4-ranked Columbus State University (43-11) 5-0 Friday night in the NCAA Southeast Region Tournament hosted by Francis Marion University.
The Bobcats became the lone undefeated team left in the double-elimination tournament, and will play Saturday at 7 p.m. against the winner of the No. 5-seed Erskine College/Columbus State game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Just two Cougars reached third base in the 113-pitch gem by Nicholas (6-2). The junior lefty scattered eight hits and two walks while fanning seven to win his fourth start in a row.
“The pitching has been huge,” said GCSU head coach Tom Carty of the back-to-back complete-game efforts by his starters in the tournament. “We'll have a full bullpen the rest of the way. This is something we thought we were capable of doing all season long, and it's great to do it on this big a stage.”
The Bobcats chipped away at CSU in the first four innings, plating a run each in the second, third and fourth. Shortstop Chandler Snell (Loganville, Ga.) and third baseman Steve Muoio (Rochester, N.Y.) recorded RBI singles in the second and third, respectively. Second baseman Jason Veyna (Lamar, Colo.) led off the fourth with a ground-rule double to left, later using his speed and a great jump to score on a wild pitch that didn't even exit the batter's circle.
The Bobcats added insurance runs in the seventh, when rightfielder Shawn Ward (Martinez, Ga.) greeted reliever Blake Sills with an RBI single on a hit-and-run, and Muoio later scored on a wild pitch to make the final 5-0.
Columbus State had runners on second and third with two down in the fourth and Nicholas responded with a strikeout. Another jam came in the eighth, but with the bases loaded and two out, Nicholas got a fly to left to end the threat.
“I had the fastball working today,” said Nicholas. “I was spotting it pretty well both in and out. My arm feels great and the conditioning has helped a lot.”
Catcher Benton Yaun (Marietta, Ga.) went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, a great way to start the first post-season action in the sophomore's career. Ward's RBI tonight gives the junior 80 on the season, tied with the Bill Blair in 1986 for seventh in Georgia College single-season history.
The 37 victories matches the most for a Carty-coached Bobcat squad, set just a year ago. The Bobcats are now over .500 at the regional tournament all-time at 14-13. The last region championship for the school came in 1995.
The GCSU Department of Athletics, winners of the 2008-09 PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Georgia College prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at Twitter.com username GCSUSID for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.