Joel A. Erickson commentary on Columbus High baseball: Intentionally walking Kyle Carter not a no-brainer now, thanks to JT Phillips and other Blue Devils

jerickson@ledger-enquirer.comMay 16, 2012 

Intentionally walking a hitter like Columbus High’s Kyle Carter must seem like a no-brainer.

Carter's got prodigious power from the left side of the plate, a ton of hardware to his credit and the skills to possibly be a first-round pick in this summer's MLB Draft.

Not exactly the profile of a hitter teams should want to challenge.

For more evidence, ask Arabia Mountain. The Rams chose to pitch to Carter twice in the first round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAA baseball state playoffs, and twice the ball disappeared high over the right-field fence.

Then again, the way JT Phillips and the rest of Columbus High's lineup have been swinging the bat lately, walking Carter might just be adding a little fire into the Blue Devils machine.

Cartersville did its best to work around Carter during Tuesday's quarterfinal doubleheader.

In seven plate appearances, Carter walked four times -- twice intentionally -- and was hit by a pitch. Granted, Carter never went deep on the Purple Hurricane, but the bigger problem is who's hitting behind him.

"It fires me up a little bit," said Phillips, the Blue Devils' No. 2 hitter behind Carter. "But I love it."

Phillips, a Georgia signee along with Carter, made Cartersville pay by going 3-for-6 with two homers and a ridiculous seven RBIs on Tuesday. His first homer, a three-run bomb that left Randy Jordan Field in a hurry, helped break open Game 1.

His second big swing followed a Carter walk with two outs, left the park down the right-field line and put Columbus ahead 2-0 in a tight Game 2, and gave himself a little breathing room to put Cartersville away on the mound.

For good measure, Phillips added a two-run single in Game 1.

"It just gives us an extra base runner with nobody out," Phillips said. "If they want to keep putting him on, we like that. It's more RBIs for other people."

Early in the season, when Columbus was struggling at the plate, an intentional walk to Carter might have paid more dividends down the road. But the team that crushed Cartersville 14-4 in the first game and mashed four homers in a single inning off of Purple Hurricane starter Kendall Hawkins didn't look like it was struggling at the plate.

The way the Blue Devils are hitting now, putting anybody on base via a free pass is asking for trouble.

"When they walk Kyle, it just opens things up," said Josh Lester, who also homered Tuesday. "But JT's always a threat to go deep or hit it in the gap, and, really, one through nine's been a threat in the playoffs. We've all hit the ball good."

With Columbus High heating up, the wisdom of walking Carter is no longer a clear-cut decision.

Not with Phillips waiting on deck and so many other Blue Devils ready to make a pitcher pay.

"They can keep doing it if they want to," Phillips said. "It's fine with me."

Joel E. Erickson, jerickson@ledger-enquirer.com

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