Each game takes on its own identity and that was evident on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class AAAA softball tournament. After top-seeded Columbus High School won the opening game 7-0 over visiting Ridgeland, the Lady Blue Devils faltered in Game 2, falling 8-3 to the Panthers.
Game 3 will be played Thursday afternoon at 3:30 at Hill Field in Columbus.
"We practice the whole year for this and we know we have to bring our A-game tomorrow in order to advance," Columbus coach Chad Mathis said. "We been here before and know what it takes."
It didn't take long for Columbus to jump out in front in Game 1 as the Lady Blue Devils scored two runs in the first. Back-to-back doubles by Hillary Waters and
Lexi Stohr made it 1-0, while April Harden singled home the second run.
The lead was all that Mary Catherine Smith needed as she was dominant from the get-go. Smith retired the first nine batters she faced before walking the first batter in the fourth. She went on to throw a complete game two-hitter while punching out 10 batters.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Columbus added on after two outs. With runners on first and second, Waters laid down a perfect bunt, allowing Kayla Brena to score. On the throw attempt, the ball got away from Ridgeland allowing Sydney Sprague to score.
Sprague put the game to bed in the sixth sending a three-run home run over the left-centerfield fence for the final 7-0 tally.
Not much changed heading into the second game. Each side started the identical starting pitchers but the outcome was much different. After Columbus went down in order to begin the game, Ridgeland got on the board in the bottom of the first. Shelby Epperson reached base after chopping a ball over Smith's head in the circle and stole second. With two outs, Haley Johnson singled her home with a sharp single to right-center.
Ridgeland gained all the momentum in the second inning. Raleigh Williams hit a hard single into right field for Columbus that the fielder misplayed allowing Williams to scramble to third. On the next pitch, Hardin hit a grounder to third base that Williams broke home on but was gunned down. Columbus would put two into scoring position later in the inning but failed to score.
In the bottom of the second, Ridgeland used a four-hit attack, including three straight with two outs, to break out to a 6-0 lead. Ally Johnson had a two-run single in the frame while Haley Johnson followed with a RBI double off the left field wall.
After the Lady Blue Devils scored two unearned runs in the fifth to creep within four, the Panthers responded with two to ice the game. Hardin added a RBI single in the seventh to push the score to 8-3.
Wednesday at Lakebottom
Ridgeland 000 000 0--0 2 3
Columbus 200 203 x--7 11 0
WP--Mary Catherine Smith (20-4) LP--Allison Wallin
Hitting leaders - Columbus, Sydney Sprague 3-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Hillary Waters 2-4, 2B, RBI, 1 run, SB; Ridgeland, Haley Johnson 1-3 2B; Dana Whittington 1-3, 2B.
Columbus 000 020 1--3 9 2
Ridgeland 150 020 x--8 9 2
WP - Allison Wallin LP - Mary Catherine Smith (20-5)
Hitting leaders - Columbus, Raleigh Williams 2-4, RBI; Lexi Stohr 1-4 RBI; Ridgeland, Haley Johnson 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, run; Ally Johnson 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 runs. Records - Columbus 22-8, Ridgeland 17-14. Next - Columbus vs. Ridgeland 3:30 p.m. today