GHSA Class AAA baseball state championship series: Columbus High's super seniors go for third straight title today at Ringgold

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comMay 27, 2012 

The Columbus High baseball program has taken consistency to a whole new level.

Just take a look at the numbers the Blue Devils, who travel to Ringgold today (Game 1 is scheduled for 4 p.m.) for the Georgia High School Association Class AAA state finals, have put up:

• This will be the 19th trip to the state finals in 29 seasons. It is also the fourth straight trip to the finals. That is not the program's longest such streak, however. Columbus went five straight times from 2003-07.

• Columbus has won 11 state championships in its previous 18 tries.

• The Blue Devils have won back-to-back state championships five times (1991-92, 1994-95, 1995-96, 2004-05 and 2010-11).

• The Blue Devils won three straight titles once (1994-96).

"We have had a lot of great players come through here," senior infielder Spencer Draws said. "Coach (Bobby) Howard, it seems like he has been here forever, he puts together a great program every year."

"We take a lot of pride in our consistency," Howard said. "The main thing is our kids. They are the ones who have to go out there and execute."

Despite all the success, Howard said it is not something that is taken for granted.

"Our kids have worked hard, and we are proud of that fact," Howard said. "We have had some tough series, and we are glad we are here. It didn't just happen."

The 11 seniors on the roster are the third class to make it to the state finals each of their four seasons. That

group is led by Kyle Carter, JT Phillips and Josh Lester, three members of the 2006 Columbus Northern Little League team that won the World Series that year. All three have signed Division I letters of intent: Carter and Phillips with Georgia and Lester with Missouri.

In four seasons, they have compiled a 126-22 record (.851).

When this class started as freshmen, Howard said there was no way to know it would have this kind of success.

"There are too many variables," he said.

If the Blue Devils are to win a 12th state title, they will have to beat a Ringgold team that defeated an undefeated Gainesville in the semifinals.

Columbus has beaten Ringgold each of the past two seasons in the playoffs. In 2010, it was in the finals, while last season it was in the second round.

"Both of those series were here," Howard said. "Us coming up there I am sure will serve as motivation for them."

Columbus (31-4) suffered its only loss of the playoffs last week in the semifinals against Troup.

"You can't take anything for certain, but sometimes you kind of do," Lester said. "We looked past Troup after we beat them in that first game. They showed us we can't do that."

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