The No. 3 Columbus baseball team (3-1) will be without a pair of its starters this weekend as it faces some of the nation’s best teams at the country at the Tournament of Champions in Jacksonville, Fla.
Two players were suspended from the team this week for violating an undisclosed team rule, coach Bobby Howard said. Howard declined to name them but said they may return to the team next week.
Columbus opens the tournament at 7 p.m. today against Charles W. Flanagan of Pembroke Pines, Fla. That team won a Florida High School Athletic Association Class 6A state championship and was named Baseball America national champion in 2010.
Columbus, the defending Georgia High School Association Class AAA champion, opened the season ranked No. 21 in the NHSBCA/Baseball America High School Baseball preseason rankings.
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The temporary roster change comes at an unfortunate time for Columbus but could give several other players more playing time than they expected, Howard said.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity for some other kids to play,” Howard said. “This is good chance for someone to get some more experience this weekend.”
A pair of future college teammates have been getting early playing time together as Harris County’s Detavis Buggs and LaGrange’s Braxton Smith practice for Sunday’s Georgia vs. Alabama Indoor Football Classic.
Smith, a quarterback, and Buggs, who played quarterback at Harris County and will move to wide receiver and defensive back in college, signed with Highland (Kan.) Community College. Despite not knowing each other before practices for the all-star game began last week, the two have become friends.
“I’m glad that we’re getting the connection together before we go out to college together,” Smith said. “It’s nice to know I’ve got a teammate who has my back, and I think we’ll do really good together this Sunday.”
Buggs, who has been practicing at wide receiver, safety and kick returner this week, said he is quickly building chemistry with Smith.
“It feels like it’s going real good right now,” Buggs said. “We’re going to have it down pat real soon.”
The indoor classic pits two teams of Chattahoochee Valley seniors against one another in an indoor football game. Kickoff is 3 p.m. Sunday at the Columbus Civic Center. Tickets are $10 and available at the Civic Center box office.
Setting an example
Hardaway softball coach Chris Gilstrap has had plenty of motivation to give his players after a pair of former Hardaway softball players now in college were honored by the Peach Belt Conference.
April Jowers, a junior at Armstrong Atlantic, was last week’s PBC Player of the Week, and Courtney Darr, a sophomore at Columbus State, was last week’s PBC Pitcher of the Week.
“It’s always good to tell our girls about other people who have gone on through our program to be successful,” Gilstrap said. “It’s easy to show our girls those things, and they get to see the type of success other girls in our program have had and that they can have, too.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.