Despite decisive win Friday morning
By DAVID MITCHELL
After a loss in its state-tournament opener on Friday, the Columbus softball team had its back against the wall on Friday.
Entering the day, it needed three consecutive wins--morning, afternoon and evening--to reach Saturday with a chance at the state title.
And despite a convincing 5-0 win in the morning contest, the Lady Blue Devils fell in the afternoon, 6-1 to Madison County, and were eliminated from the tournament.
"I'm very proud of these girls," coach Chad Mathis said after the game. "They set a goal and were committed to achieving it. They lost with class, and now they'll work hard toward next year."
The season was a success in a number of ways for the Lady Blue Devils (31-6-1). For one, it was Mathis' first season as the head coach and he was coaching a relatively young team. The trip to the state tournament was Columbus' first since winning the state title in 2009, a sign that the program has returned to where it expects to be.
"This is our goal every year," Mathis said.
Pitcher Mary Catherine Smith, who tossed a complete-game shutout against Lumpkin County in Friday's first game, said that the team's progress throughout the season was evident.
"Before the season, we weren't even ranked," she said. "As the season went on, we overcame so much to get to where we are now.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of."
The difficulty for Columbus in both games was an inability to get hits and move runners around consistently, a struggle brought on, in large part, by the quality of pitching it was facing.
The Lady Blue Devils managed just a single run in the second inning against Madison County. Already trailing 2-0, Sydney Sprague led off the inning with an infield single for Columbus. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and, two batters later, came around to score on an RBI single by Melody Baker.
Columbus had three hits in that inning but only two more the rest of the game. And, despite scoring five in their first game, the Lady Blue Devils were actually outhit by Lumpkin County 6-4.
"The eight teams that are here are here for a reason," Mathis said. "No. 1, they have great girls in the circle."
He noted the talent of Madison County starter Alexis Damron and reliever Randee Bettis.
And a little defense didn't hurt either.
With Damron wearing
down in the fifth inning, her team leading 3-1, she walked the first two batters, who were sacrificed to second and third on a bunt. Bettis came in for relief and walked another batter to load the bases, setting up a big opportunity for Syerra Askew.
Askew hit the ball on the nose, but a diving catch by right fielder Kayla Argo not only recorded an out, but the runners failed to advance as well.
"That was a tough opportunity to miss," Mathis said simply.
Madison County added a run in the sixth and two more on a two-run home run by Jorden Williams in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Columbus topped Lumpkin County in its first game behind Smith's stellar effort. She pitched a complete-game shut out, struck out nine and allowed just six hits. The offense picked up five runs in the fifth inning, thanks to a couple of errors and timely hits.
Smith said the team needs to take this loss and carry it forward.
"We need to remember how we're feeling now and carry it over to next year," she said.
Friday at South Commons
Lumpkin Co. 000 000 0--0 6 3
Columbus 000 050 X--5 4 0
WP--Smith (20-3-1). LP--Brown. Leading hitters--Lumpkin County, Allyson Gentry 1-3, 2B, Ashley Brown 1-2, 2B; Columbus, Sydney Sprague 1-3, R, Alexis Jones 2-3, R.
Madison Co. 200 011 2--6 6 0
Columbus 010 000 0--1 5 0
WP--Damron. LP--Jones. Leading hitters--Madison County, Jessica Allen 1-3, 2 RBIs, Jorden Williams 1-3, HR, 2 RBIs; Columbus, Melody Baker 1-3, RBI, Lexi Stohr 1-2, 2B. Record--Columbus, 31-6-5. Next game--Columbus, season over.