After a two hour and 20 minute rain delay, Ridgeland scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to stun top-seeded Columbus High School 6-5 in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAAA softball state playoffs Thursday afternoon in the third and final game of the series.
Even though the game was played on the Lady Blue Devils' home field, the Panthers won the opening coin toss and chose to be the home team and wasted no time scoring. In the bottom of the first, Courtney Ketner lead the frame off with a single but failed to advance after Mary Catherine Smith sat down the next two batters. However, on a 0-1 pitch to Haley Johnson, Smith left a ball up and Johnson delivered a two-run home run over the left field wall.
Columbus failed to cash in a leadoff single in the second but did tie the game an inning later with one swing of the bat. Alex Head began the third reaching on an error and later scored on Sydney Sprague's game-tying two-run blast over the left field fence. It was the senior's second home run of the series.
In a 2-2 game with two runners on in the fourth for the Lady Blue Devils, the sky opened up soaking the field with rain. From that point on, both pitchers had control issues as the two sides combined to walk and hit 12 batters in the final four frames.
When the game restarted, Leslee Brock was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Head. Head came up clutch for Columbus driving the ball into center field allowing Nicole Humphries to score from third. On the play, Kayla Brena attempted to make it a two-run single, but Shelby Epperson gunned her down at the plate on a great throw to keep it a 3-2 game.
With a base open and two outs, Ridgeland decided to intentionally walk Sprague to load the bases for Hillary Waters. Allision Wallin failed to regain her command walking Waters to make it a 4-2 Columbus lead.
The Panthers got one run back in the bottom half of the fourth after back-to-back leadoff singles and two wild pitches pushed across Emma Arthur.
Columbus seemed to be gearing up for a big top half of the fifth as April Hardin just missed out on a home run to straightaway center field but settled for a double with one out. After a walk, Ridgeland third baseman, Tori Townson, threw away a sure out on a grounder allowing Hardin to score to make it 5-3.
However, Ridgeland stormed back scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth with just one hit. With the bases loaded, Valerie Rynerson entered the game and walked consecutive batters to tie the game.
Ketner delivered the game-winning blow sending a ball into right field scoring the go ahead run.
Over the final two innings, Columbus put just one runner on base ending its postseason aspirations.
"It was a good season and I'm proud of the girls for battling throughout," said Columbus coach Chad Mathis. "Losing is never easy especially when you put in all the work that we did this year."
Thursday at Lakebottom
Columbus 002 210 0--5 5 0
Ridgeland 200 130 x--6 9 3
WP - Allison Wallin. LP - Mary Catherine Smith (20-6). Hitting leaders - Columbus, Sydney Sprague 1-3, HR, 2 RBI; April Hardin 2-4 run; Ridgeland, Haley Johnson 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, Courtney Ketner 1-3, RBI, runs. Records - Columbus 22-9, Ridgeland 18-14. Next - Columbus season over