It had to happen eventually.
Like the Atlanta Braves in 2006, when their run of division dominance finally came to an end at 14 straight titles, the Columbus High baseball team had to come up short in its region sooner or later.
Not that anyone really expected it to happen.
Even after needing an extra five-inning mini-game to clinch the Region 5-AAAA title over Carrollton last season, the expectations for the Blue Devils coming into this season were to earn that top seed for the state playoffs.
But it wasn’t to be.
Not after Alexander defeated Columbus 4-1 on Monday to give Carrollton control. When Carrollton topped LaGrange on Tuesday, it was official. Carrollton gets the coveted top spot in the region, while Columbus will battle from a No. 2 seed, ending the Blue Devils’ streak of region titles at 11.
There are things that could be said, comparisons that could be made between this team and those of past years that earned Columbus the reputation as one of the premier high school baseball programs in the state and, perhaps, the country.
But that isn’t the point of this column.
This column is an obituary, of sorts, on the Blue Devils’ streak of region titles, recognition of their achievement and the incredible difficulty involved in achieving it.
Because, contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t always been easy.
Take 2013, for example.
Columbus found itself up against the well with a loss to Troup late in its region schedule, tying it with Carrollton after all the region games had been played. The Blue Devils had split with the Trojans in their two meetings during the season, forcing an extra five-inning game to decide the champion.
Columbus responded with its fourth straight victory to claim the region crown.
In 2011, the Blue Devils won their region by just a single game over LaGrange and in 2007 won by the same margin over Harris County.
Unlike in football where the premier elite teams regularly sport spotless records into the playoffs, perfection in baseball is a difficult target to strike.
An ill-timed sub-par pitching performance or an unluckily placed pebble on the infield that causes an error can be the difference in winning or losing a game. And, in most seasons, the region race will come down to a game or two — or less, in the case of 2013.
But for 11 years, Columbus was so dominant that even the bad luck couldn’t derail its season.
In that span, it won five state championships, two straight in 2004-05 and three straight in 2010-12.
No team during that period has been more successful.