Update: Redan sweeps Columbus; Hardaway splits with Evans

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerMay 7, 2013 

Redan swept past Columbus 5-4 and 9-4 in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs on Wednesday afternoon at Randy Jordan Field.

In Game 2, Redan scored four times in the first and twice in the second to take control of the game at 6-1.

Trega Williams knocked in three runs and Brandon Baker knocked in two more for Redan.

Columbus had scored once in the first, but then didn't score again until scoring three times in the seventh.

Martin Wood drove in two runs. Tony Dalponte also drove in a run.

The loss ended a string of 15 straight years that Columbus had advanced at least to the quarterfinal round.

Update Game 1: Redan 5, Columbus 4

Despite taking an early lead, the Columbus High baseball team fell 5-4 to Redan in the first of a best-of-three series in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

With the loss, the Blue Devils, who have won three consecutive state championship, are on the brink of elimination.

Hunter Swilling pitched a complete game in the loss, allowing only three hits, but walking three and hitting three. Columbus also committed two errors, resulting in three unearned runs.

Click here to follow Columbus' second game against Redan.

In game one, Hardaway’s pitching and defense kept Evans at bay in a never-ending series of jams.

In game two, the floodgates finally opened for Evans, forcing a decisive third game today.

Hardaway had its opportunity to sweep its guest in a Class AAAAA regional second-round series after a 7-5 opening victory, but Evans battled back to grab a split Wednesday with an 10-5 rally win.

The Hawks (26-6), who will host the Knights (19-7) Thursday at 4:30 p.m. with the winner moving on to the state quarterfinals, jumped out to leads in both outings. Once they survived a spirited comeback, but not twice.

In the opener, Hardaway grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first inning, helped by a 2-run error, but twice saw its lead shrink to one run.

Senior third baseman Brandon Bynam clouted a 2-run home run to center to restore Hardaway’s cushion to 6-3, and followed up with a terrific diving snag at third base to end a fourth-inning threat.

There were more logjams on the basepaths than just that frame. Hardaway’s scorekeeper logged senior pitcher C.J. Brown (11-0) as hurling 148 pitches, laboring through 40 batters to complete the game.

In the seventh, Brown found himself in trouble with the tying run aboard and one out facing the heart of the Evans lineup.

But a flyout to deep center and grounder to second sealed the game one triumph. Evans stranded 14 runners, including 7 in the last three innings.

The Hawks were not so fortunate in the potential clincher, as sophomore Trevon Dorsey wasn’t able to dance out of trouble. Hardaway, batting first in game two, took a 3-0 advantage on home runs by senior Justin Ellison and sophomore Blake Rupp.

But the Knights collected five hits to erase the deficit in the bottom of the third, and started pounding Dorsey in the fourth – coming up with just one go-ahead run amidst two long fly ball outs. The onslaught continued in the fifth, when a four-run frame on four singles sealed Evans’ comeback.

Junior Blake Meadows vaulted a solo shot to center in the seventh, making it four Hardaway home runs on the afternoon. Raekwon Bennett and Kelvin McCladdie went deep for Evans.

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The coaches at Columbus High leaned on the dugout fence watching their baseball team in the outfield.

The players were playing rag ball, a variation on the game in which they used a softer ball, no gloves and a thin wooden stick to bat with. The players were loud, laughing and cheering, showing no indication of concern over their impending second-round series with Redan at 2 p.m. Wednesday at home.

Click here to follow Columbus' first game against Redan.

“We just like to let them play that every once in awhile,” assistant coach Chad Mathis said. “It keeps them loose.”

In the dugout, coach Bobby Howard struck a different tone. His team is confident, he said, but he knows Redan will be no small task.

“Redan is very well-coached,” Howard said. “They’ve always had athletes. They’ve always been dangerous. Now, they’re dangerous and good. We’ve definitely got our hands full.”

The Raiders (22-6) throw two left-handers on the mound, one of which is Brandon Baker, a senior who is headed to Missouri on a baseball scholarship. Their No. 2, Corderius Dorsey is also athletic. Shortstop Wesley Jones is another Division-I prospect, headed to the University of Georgia.

“They’ve got a ton of athletes,” Howard said. “We know it will be a low-scoring series, so we have to take advantage of your opportunities and manufacture some runs.”

The runs weren’t a problem for the Blue Devils in the first round, though Howard and his players know they need to do a better job of situational hitting when the opportunities arise.

“We’ve practiced that a lot more often,” third baseman Tony Dalponte said. “We need that key hit when we get the chance.”

He added that it’d be nice to get started early like they did last week, scoring four runs in the first inning against Lanier.

“We want to come in with momentum,” he said. “We want that first run because it really sets the tone.”

Defensively, Columbus was solid in the first game last week, shutting out Lanier behind a stellar pitching performance from Hunter Swilling. Swilling said he was confident in his pitches, especially knowing he had the offense and defense going behind him. That will be key again on Wednesday.

“It’s great just knowing that I can throw my pitches in there,” he said. “I don’t have to be afraid to let them hit it.”

Swilling added that the team, which is full of players new to starting in the playoffs, is getting a feel for what it takes.

“We’re starting to understand what it takes to get it done,” he said. “We’ve come a long way this season.”

Evans at Hardaway

Like Columbus, Hardaway has made strides this season, most notably in a series win over Northgate in the first round.

Northgate, one of the better bottom seeds in the playoffs, pushed the Hawks to a third game, but the Hardaway pitching came through with a shutout. That’s the strength for Hardaway and what it will rely on in the series against Evans at 2 p.m. Wednesday at home.

“You run a guy out in a game three who can throw a two-hit shutout, that says something about your arms,” coach Chris Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap said that Evans, too, comes in strong in pitching and on defense.

“Most teams do that well at this point in the season,” Gilstrap said. “They’re not going to beat themselves; they’re going to play low-scoring games.”

Once again, that’s when it comes down to situational hitting.

“You have to be able to manufacture offense,” Gilstrap said. “We practice our situational hitting at least once a week, where that’s all we do. You have to take advantage of those chances.”

Tre’Von Dorsey, the Hawks’ game two pitcher, said the team is starting to feel more and more confident in those situations.

“We’re feeling more comfortable and more confident,” he said. “We got through that first series and now we know what it’s like in the playoffs.”

Will Griggs echoed similar thoughts.

“It took a lot of pressure off and gave us a big boost of confidence,” Griggs said. “We know what to expect now, and we’re a lot more loose.”

Gilstrap said that it doesn’t really matter what team the Hawks are playing, because his players approach things the same way.

“The nerves are more on my part,” he said with a laugh. “They don’t care who we play. They just want to be out there. It takes a lot of the thinking out of it and just lets them go out and be aggressive. Really, that’s how we like to play.”

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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