College baseball: Catawba Indians one win away from World Series

Published 2:03 am Saturday, May 25, 2024



By Mike London

SALISBURY — Catawba’s baseball team dominated for seven innings and held on for dear life for two.

That formula worked. The bottom line was positive. The Indians (43-15) beat Georgia College & State University 9-6 on Friday night in the opening game of a best-of-three Super Regional.

The teams will play again at Newman Park on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. A win would put Catawba in the Division II College World Series, while a loss would mean a decisive third game would have to be played on Saturday night.

Catawba sent Austin Fine (9-3) to the mound. He responded with one of the best games of his career.

“He’s got four pitches and usually if we find two that are working he can pitch a good game,” Catawba catcher Bo Rusher said. “But this was a night when he could throw any of his  four pitches for strikes in any count. He had a great mix of pitches, and he was hard to hit.”

Fine only walked one, while striking out six in six shutout innings. He allowed five hits. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

Georgia College (37-21) sent ace John Luke Glanton (11-5) to the mound. The 5-foot-10 right-hander relies on guile more than power. He’s usually been able to tie powerful sluggers in knots with changeups and curveballs, but Catawba has a lineup that features line-drive hitters more than sluggers. Catawba didn’t launch any balls out of the park, but the Indians amassed 15 hits against Glanton. Most went up the middle or to the opposite field.

“We knew we were going to get mostly off-speed from him and not a lot of fastballs,” Rusher said. “We talked about it. The plan was to move up in the box and be ready for the curve or the change. We had guys like Cole Hales who saw the curve really well. He had really good at-bats.”

Hales had three hits, with two doubles. Dylan Driver had two doubles and scored three runs for the ninth-ranked Indians.

Rusher got the first clutch hit, a two-out single in the bottom of the first to plate Driver. The lefty-swinging Rusher waited on an off-speed pitch and served it into left field.

The bottom of the third was a replay of the bottom of the first. Driver doubled again. Rusher made it 2-0 with a two-out single up the middle.

It was 5-0 after Cooper Bryson, Ty Hubbard and Sam Hunter drove in runs in the fourth. Bryson’s double was a shot off the wall.

Hales doubled and scored in the fifth for a 6-0 cushion.

In the sixth, Hunter produced a two-run single up the middle before Hales’ third hit made it 9-0.

Catawba was cruising at the point, but a three-run homer by Brandon Bellflower in the eighth made it 9-3.

That sudden blow energized the Bobcats. Then it got more than a little crazy in the ninth. as Georgia  College loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a hit batsman.

Catawba’s freshman closer Hayden Simmerson reported to the mound at that point.

Simmerson wasn’t immediately successful at putting out the fire. A single and a walk made it 9-5, there still were no outs, and Georgia College had the heart of its lineup coming up.

“Hayden has gotten all kinds of accolades and honors from the conference and region and he’s earned them,” Rusher said. “But I don’t care who you are, when a reliever comes into  a game with the bases loaded there’s a lot of pressure on him, and he was facing good hitters.”

Bellflower, the Bobcats’ best hitter, could have made it 9-9 with a grand slam, but Simmerson kept him in the ball park. Bellflower’s sacrifice fly made it 9-6, but Simmerson, Rusher and the Indians could live with that.

Then Simmerson got dangerous 4 and 5 hitters to rap ground balls to shortstop Levi Perrell.

He handled them smoothly on an an errorless night for the Indians, and it was finally over.

“Hayden did a great job of trusting his stuff and finishing,” Rusher said. “We’ve worked together like that all year, and now we’re one win away from Cary.”




– GCSU kept the rally going in the ninth, loading up the bases with no outs

– An RBI single, a bases loaded walk and a sac fly brought the tying run to the plate for Georgia College with two outs to play with

– Perrell recorded two outs on ground balls to walk away with the win


– Catawba out-hit Georgia College 15-12

– The Catawba Indians recorded five of seven extra-base hits; GCSU hit the lone homer

– Both teams left six runners on base

– The Bobcats committed the lone error in the game

– Catawba had both stolen bases on the night

– The Catawba Indian pitchers allowed six runs on 12 hits and three walks, striking out six; Georgia College’s staff allowed nine runs on 15 hits, also striking out six


– Sam Hunter was 2-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored

– Dylan Driver had two doubles and scored three times

– Cole Hales also doubled twice in a three-hit effort, driving in a run and scoring another

– Levi Perrell and Bo Rusher also had multi-hit games; Rusher drove in a pair and Perrell scored twice.

– Hayden Simmerson retired the tying run in the ninth to close the door


– Catawba and Georgia College continue the Super Regional on Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. first pitch; the Catawba Indians need to win one of two games to advance to the DII College World Series