By Rocky Merritt
COVINGTON - On Sunday afternoon, Georgia Perimeter College hosted the Cleveland State Cougars in two hard fought battles amidst gusty conditions.
In the end, the Jaguars (7-12 overall, 2-5 conference) would split the doubleheader, falling 6-5 in the first game and winning the second, 5-4.
In the opener, the Cougars struck first in the second inning after third baseman Andrew Hennen pounded a long double then stole third on a passed ball. Center fielder Cory Hilton singled to right, driving Hennon home. Cory Stooksbury followed with a double to left field scoring Hilton, putting Cleveland State up by the score of 2-0.
"The wind and the sun messed with our outfielders," Cougars first baseman Will Davis admitted.
The Jaguars loaded the bases in the bottom of the second with hits by Greg Adams and Denver Stovall, including a walk by Russ Cooper. But Conyers native Matt Bishop lined to center field for the third out, leaving the runners stranded.
"We couldn't get the clutch hits when we needed them," Jaguars head coach Danny Blue said. "The wind didn't hurt us much but may have hurt (Cleveland State) more."
In the third inning the Jaguars tried to land on the scoreboard. Third baseman Jason Dodson beat out an infield single to shortstop, hustling all the way for a photo finish. After Dodson stole second, Trent Freeman walked. Jeremy Reihn followed with a drive to left field, scoring Dodson. Jake Waits grounded to right to score Freeman, tying the game, 2-2.
But the Jags would strand three more runners after Russ Cooper grounded out to second base for out number three.
In the fourth, Georgia Perimeter tallied back-to-back base hits by Dodson and Freeman. A Reihn single would then score Dodson, putting the Jaguars up, 3-2. However, they would eventually strand three more runners on base after Kevin Boyd grounded into a double play, leaving the sacks full for the third time.
The Cougars would come back to tie the game 3-3 in the fifth after a single by Cory Stookesbury and a double by Jay Huffman. They would eventually add two more runs in the sixth inning after an RBI single by Hennen and another RBI double by Huffman.
But the Jags would respond in the bottom half of the six. After a Dodson single, Tyler Betsill scored him with a deep drive to right field, making it 5-4. They would strike again in the seventh, after Casey Young scored Greg Adams with a sac bunt, tying the game, 5-5.
In the top of the eighth, Georgia Perimeter relief pitcher Brent Hendrick struck out the leadoff batter, but then allowed a triple and two walks to load the bases. A Travis Borum single would drive home the go-ahead run, putting the Cougars on top for good, 6-5.
"It was a tough fought game," Cougars head coach Mike Policastro said. "Our pitcher threw a good pitch to get us out of the game after a leadoff double. To their credit, (Georgia Perimeter) capitalized on misplayed fly balls because of the wind, and the wind didn't seem to bother them."