It wasn't the perfect first-round series for the Columbus softball team, but it was a series sweep nonetheless.
Behind timely hitting in the final inning of game two of a doubleheader and dominant pitching from Mary Catherine Smith, the Lady Blue Devils swept Lanier High, winning both games 1-0, and advanced to the second round where they will face the winner of Redan/Dalton next week.
"You always want to create that momentum early," Columbus coach Chad Mathis said. "That didn't happen today. With that said, any time you can come away with a win against great pitching, you take it. Would we have rather won 8-0? Sure, but we'll take it."
It appeared for a moment that the Lady Blue Devils, who won the first game of the series 1-0, might have to settle for a split. Lanier pitcher Kaylee Ramos pitched well in the first game, but
appeared to get even stronger in the second.
Through the first six innings of game two, Ramos allowed just three hits and no runs. After forcing the first two batters in the top of the seventh to pop out, shortstop Sydney Sprague was able to put the bat on the ball and send it to second base, where it took a bad hope and bounced into the gap between left and right field.
Sprague was hustling the whole way and was able to make it all the way to third on the play, keeping hope alive for the Lady Blue Devils.
"As soon as I made contact, I was just running for my life," Sprague said.
The following batter, Kayla Brena, battled to a full count against Ramos before finally finding a pitch over the outside corner and shooting it into right field for an RBI single, giving the Lady Blue Devils a late 1-0 lead.
"Sydney created a great opportunity, and I knew I had to take advantage of it and put the ball in play," Brena said. "There was (pressure). I blocked it out, but I love being in those situations. But there was definitely a lot of pressure."
Columbus pitcher Smith withstood the pressure in the final half-inning, as well, to preserve the lead and give her team the series sweep.
"I just knew I couldn't let my team down," she said. "I was trying my hardest to make the pitches."
Smith was in control most of the day. She pitched a complete game in the first game, a 1-0 win, and came on to pitch in the third inning of game two. Overall, she pitched 12 innings of scoreless ball, allowing just eight hits and striking out 14.
"When your team isn't really hitting, and you're still able to win, it goes back to the quality pitching," Mathis said. "Mary Catherine pitched great today. And there's been games in the past where she didn't have the offense behind her, but she always goes to work."
Smith got her one run of support in game one with some heads-up base running. In the bottom of the second inning, Brena reached base on an infield single and moved to second on an error. An infield single by Nicole Humphries put her on third base, and when Lanier tried to through her out stealing second a couple pitches later, the ball bounced into centerfield, allowing Brena to come in and score the game's only run.
Mathis was happy the team was able to get off the field with a series win, but said his team needs to do more at the plate if it wants to make a push in the playoffs.
"I consider this one of the best hitting teams in Columbus, and maybe the state," he said of his team. "But we didn't show it tonight. We've got to do better than that."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571
Wednesday at Columbus
Lanier 000 000 0 --0 4 3
Columbus 010 000 x --1 5 0
WP-- Mary Catherine Smith. LP-- Kaylee Ramos. Hitting leaders-- Lanier, Noelle Petty 1-2; Columbus, Hilary Waters 2-3, Kayla Brena 1-3, 1 run.
Columbus 000 000 1 --1 3 0
Lanier 000 000 0 --0 6 0
WP-- Mary Catherine Smith (19-2-1). LP-- Kaylee Ramos. Hitting leaders-- Columbus, Kayla Brena, 1-3, game-winning RBI single; Lanier, Keisha Stone, 2-3. Records-- Columbus, 28-4-1. Next-- Lanier, season over; Columbus, Oct. 17 vs. Redan/Dalton in second round.