The Columbus State Cougars limped toward the end of the 2012 season, losing 4-of-5 and 6-of-9. But the start of the Peach Belt Conference tournament proved to be the perfect tonic.
With left-hander Brodie Leibrandt scattering 10 hits, the Cougars knocked off No. 6 Francis Marion 4-1 on Wednesday night at Ragsdale Field.
The game had to be played on CSU's home field after rain caused a lengthy delay in the second game of the tournament at Golden Park.
With the win, the Cougars (30-21) move into a second-round game against Lander at 7:30 p.m. today. Francis Marion will face Georgia College in an elimination game at 4 p.m.
CSU needs to win the PBC tournament to earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Division II tournament.
This was the second time Leibrandt (7-5) beat the Patriots this season.
Leibrandt shut out Francis Marion 1-0 on seven hits in the second game of their regular-season series back in February.
"He owned that outside corner and he is tough when his ball is moving away from the right-handed hitters," CSU coach Greg Appleton said.
He got defensive gems behind him from left fielder Eric Weiss, left fielder J.D. Pullen and second baseman Cyle Rasmus.
After CSU had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, Buddy Sosnoskie led off the
bottom with a long drive to right field. Weiss went up over the top of the wall, taking away a game-tying home run.
Pullen robbed Sosnoskie of a single in the sixth with a sliding catch on a sinking line drive.
After a leadoff single in the eighth, Rasmus went far into the hole between first and second to rob Michael Wilson of a hit.
Leibrandt didn't allow more than one runner in any inning after the fourth until Francis Marion loaded the bases on three straight singles with one in the ninth. But Leibrandt struck out pinch-hitters Austin Smetana and John Jones to end the game.
"The defense supported me and we came up with clutch hits.," Leibrandt said.
"That play Rasmus made was a big out. They would have had a big inning going," Appleton said. "Weiss made a SportsCenter type catch. That saved a run. J.D. made a good catch and (Seth) Corbitt played a good shortstop."
Weiss, Pullen and Brett Teschner led the Cougars' offense with two hits apiece.
Weiss got CSU on the board in the top of the first. After a pair of walks to begin the game, Weiss drove in Rasmus with a single off the shortstop's glove into left field.
The Patriots scored their only run in the second on three hits. One of those hits was controversial. After Sosnoskie singled to lead off, Jacob Golliday bunted up the first-base line. Leibrandt picked up the ball and looked to have tagged Golliday, but the umpires ruled him safe.
Jarrod Reed, who was 2-for-3, reached on an infield single with one out, knocking in Sosnoskie for a 1-1 tie.
CSU put together three-straight two-out hits for a run in the fourth. Pullen drove in Logan Dollar to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
CSU gave Leibrandt some breathing room with two runs in the seventh. After Navarro Hall walked and Cameron Scott doubled, Brett Teschner and Weiss knocked in runs.
at Golden Park
Montevallo 6, USC Aiken 5
Armstrong Atlantic 4, North Georgia 0
Lander 5, Georgia College 0
Columbus State 4, Francis Marion 1
Game 5: USC Aiken vs. North Georgia, 9 a.m.
Game 7: Montevallo vs. Armstrong Atlantic, 12:30 p.m.
Game 6: North Georgia vs. Francis Marion, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Lander vs. Columbus State, 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 9 a.m.
Game 10: Game w inner vs. Game 8 loser, 12:30 p.m.
Game 11: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 13: if game, TBA
Game 14: if game, TBA
Game 15: Championship game, 1 p.m.