TIGERVILLE, S.C. -- Four different Belmont Abbey players hit home runs -- including Luke Cureton's tie-breaking solo shot in the fourth inning -- and four relievers combined for eight scoreless innings, sending the Crusaders to the Monday's championship round of the 2018 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional with a 7-3 victory over Columbus State.
Winners of three straight, No. 3 seed Belmont Abbey (40-12) needs just one more victory to clinch its second-ever appearance in the Division II College World Series. It will face the survivor of two elimination games Sunday involving North Greenville, UNC Pembroke and Columbus State at noon Monday with a second game immediately following if needed.
Cureton, Matt McGarry, Josh Genthe and Thomas Yoder all went yard as the Crusaders rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second inning. The Cougars (42-13) chased Crusader starter Griffin Baker after just an inning-plus, plating two runs in the first and another on a sacrifice fly in the second.
But the Belmont Abbey bullpen was masterful after that. Brady Hill changed the momentum, allowing just three hits and two walks over three innings. He struck out a pair, while the Crusader bats came alive. McGarry put The Abbey on the board in the third with a two-out, two-run shot to left. He drove in Robert Lathrop, who doubled immediately beforehand.
An unearned run in the fourth tied the game. Kevin Elefante drew a two-out walk and took second on a single by Jakob Rolly. A throwing error by the CSU shortstop allowed Elefante to even the game at 3-3. Cureton gave the Crusaders their first lead with two outs in the fourth when he hit the first pitch he saw over the fence in left center. It was Cureton's second home run in three days as we won Thursday's opener with a walk-off shot in the 10th inning.
Blake Waldren took the mound in the fifth and kept Columbus State hitless over the next four innings. He walked four and hit one, but struck out five to improve to 4-0. Meanwhile, Genthe led off the eighth with a round-tripper down the right field line and Yoder hit his second home run of the regional to add two insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
Columbus State starter Tyler Cadenhead took the loss to fall to 8-1 this season. He gave up four runs (three unearned) over five innings.
With the win, Belmont Abbey improved to 11-10 all-time in NCAA play.