The last time Columbus and Shaw met on the baseball field, the Blue Devils erupted for 13 runs in the first inning en route to a blowout victory.
On Tuesday at Shaw, the Columbus offense was much more reserved, sputtering for the first four innings, but came together to give the team a 7-2 win over the Raiders.
The Blue Devils scored four in the fifth and two in the sixth to extend a 1-0 lead to 7-0, more than enough for starting pitcher Russell Forthofer, who pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one unearned run.
Columbus coach Bobby Howard acknowledged Shaw’s improvement from the last time the two teams met and noted the level of parity in Region 5-AAAA right now.
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“They’re a lot better,” Howard said of Shaw. “There’s a lot of parity in this league. The gap has closed a little bit. We battled with Troup last night, too. Anyone can win on any given night.”
But Tuesday still belonged to Columbus.
Leading 1-0, but scatter just three hits over the first four innings, the Blue Devils finally found some consistency at the plate in the fifth. Chris Scrivner reached first on an infield single to start the inning, and Brandon Pugh followed with a bunt single to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Shaw starter Russell Kelly, who had pitched well for most of his start, was chased from the game in favor of Ashton Greer.
Greer nearly had Columbus’ leading hitter Al Jones out of the way, throwing two pitches close to the strike zone on an 0-2 count, but Jones finally found a pitch he liked and hit it just over the outstretched glove of Shaw left fielder Ethan Lakeman. Jones reached second with a double, plating two runs to make it a 3-0 lead for Columbus.
That hit opened the gates for the Blue Devils, who got back-to-back sacrifice flies from the next two batters, Nick Poskey and Will Kilgore, another infield single from Cason Greathouse and an RBI double from Forthofer.
The sixth inning began with a single from Dylan Baker, a hard double from Knox Carter and a two-RBI double from Trey Alexander.
“We had some guys come off the bench and give us some hits,” Howard said. “And Al (Jones) had three hits. He’s our catalyst at the top of the order. We go as Al goes.”
Jones finished the game 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Greathouse was 2 for 4 with a run, and Forthofer was 1 for 2 with a double and an RBI. Alexander drove in two runs in his lone at-bat of the game.
Forthofer was solid on the mound, pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing just one unearned run. Pitching in the sixth inning, Forthofer finally appeared fatigued, walking two batters and allowing one to reach on an error. He gave way to Jacob Pate with the bases loaded and one out in the inning.
Pate induced a lazy fly ball to left field, which was caught by Scrivner and fired into second base where Shaw’s Antonio Evans had strayed too far from the bag. Evans was doubled up for the third out of the inning, but it was ruled that Brent Morrison had crossed home plate before the third out was recorded.
Designated hitter Jacorrey Crowell reached on an error in the seventh inning and came around to score another unearned run for Shaw on an RBI double from Isaiah Arnold.
Howard spoke highly of Forthofer’s effort after the game.
“He did a great job,” he said. “He’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s been able to gain command of three pitches. He’s got three quality pitches now. His changeup has been the difference. He located well and kept the ball down, which is important in this park. No lead is safe here.”
Forthofer finished with four strikeouts. Pate pitched an inning, striking out two, and Scrivner recorded the final out of the game.
Tuesday at Shaw
Columbus 100 042 0—7 11 2
Shaw 000 001 1—2 7 3
WP—Forthofer. LP—Kelly. Leading hitters: Columbus, Jones 3-4, 2B, RBI, Greathouse 2-4, R, Forthofer 1-2, 2B, RBI, Alexander 1-1, 2 RBIs; Shaw, Arnold 2-4, RBI, Gaddis 2-2. Records: Columbus, 11-3. Next: Columbus, Thursday vs. Alexander at home; Shaw, Friday at Troup County.