The Columbus baseball team has relied on the left arm of No. 1 starter Cason Greathouse all season. On Friday, in the first round of the playoffs, he was still solid in a Game 1 win over Lakeside-Evans.
But it was his bat and another left arm, that of sophomore Clayton Duncan, that put the nail in a two-game series sweep at home.
Duncan pitched 3 1/3 innings of solid relief to stave off the pesky Panthers in Game 2, and Greathouse knocked a one-out, two-RBI double to break a tie in the seventh inning to help Columbus to a 6-3 series-clinching win. Greathouse got the win on the mound in an 11-4 victory in Game 1.
With the wins, the Blue Devils advance to the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs, where they will host the winner of Loganville and Kell.
“I always tell them to finish, and they had a great seventh inning,” Columbus coach Chad Mathis said after the game. “I was proud of the guys. We did some things good, but we made a few mistakes as well. But that happens in baseball.”
On Friday, the second game came down to mere inches in the final innings.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, Trey Alexander led off with a triple that barely snuck inside the third-base line for the Blue Devils. He scored on a wild pitch that barely skipped away from the Lakeside catcher.
In the bottom half, the Panthers tied the score on an RBI single by Michael Arnold, plating a runner who had only reached base on an infield bunt. Arnold’s single nearly drove home a second run, but Columbus’ relay from the outfield beat runner Brandon Van Arsdale to the plate for the third out of the inning, leaving the game tied 3-3.
In the top half, Gage Dempsey led off with a double for Columbus, another hit that snuck just inside the third baseline. Dylan Baker and Jeffrey Oravic both walked to load the bases with nobody out, leaving Columbus in fantastic position to take a late lead.
Once again, though, it was mere inches that saved the Blue Devils in the inning. Russell Forthofer roped a pitched near shortstop Reid Tulowitzky, who was playing in. Tulowitzky made the stabbing catch and threw to third, nearly pulling off a double play that could have helped his team get out of the inning.
Instead, Dempsey was safe, and Greathouse followed with a two-run double to break the tie. Alexander added an RBI single in the inning to give Columbus a 6-3 lead that Duncan held onto with a 1-2-3 bottom half of the seventh.
“I knew I had to get a deep fly ball to get the runner in,” Greathouse said. “I got down 0-2, and I knew I just had to fight and let my hands work and do what I could do to get the run in. Then he hung a curveball and I had to — I had to damage it.”
But it was Duncan that Mathis praised most after the game. In a three-game playoff series, the coach said, it comes down to arms and who has the depth to finish out games.
Duncan allowed just a single unearned run on three hits in his 3 1/3 innings of work. He didn’t record a strikeout, but he made pitches that kept Lakeside from making strong contact and let his defense do the rest.
“That’s kind of been my role this year,” he said. “Be the reliever and stop when I can. Let my defense play behind me. They made a lot of plays for me.”
“That was huge,” Mathis said of Duncan’s contribution. “It’s a total team effort no matter how you look at it. Troy wasn’t really on, and we stretch him as long as we could and we put Duncan in there to see how long we could pitch him and he wound up finishing it. He has to step up for us in the playoffs.”
Told that it takes more than two pitchers to win in the playoffs, Mathis readily agreed.
“It does, man,” he said. “It takes a family.”
Columbus won the first game behind a six-run fifth inning and a three-run sixth, breaking a 2-2 tie and running away for an 11-4 win.
Friday at Columbus
Lakeside 020 002 0—4 9 1
Columbus 002 063 x—11 11 3
WP—Cason Greathouse. LP—Daniel Wiggins. Leading hitters—Lakeside, Michael Arnold 2-4, Brandon Hensley 3-4, 2B, Brandon Van Arsdale 1-3, RBI, Luke Wiles 1-2, RBI; Columbus, Cason Greathouse 1-4, 3 RBIs, Jeffrey Oravic 2-4, 2 Rs, Trey Alexander 1-4, RBI, 2 Rs, Ryan Anderson 1-3, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, Jackson Mellenberg 2-3, 2 RBIs, R.
Columbus 010 101 3—6 11 1
Lakeside 100 101 x—3 8 1
WP—Clayton Duncan. LP—Jake Gilbert. Leading hitters—Columbus, Cason Greathouse 1-4, 2B, 2 RBIs, Trey Alexander 3-3, 3B, RBI, 3 Rs, Jackson Mellenberg 3-4, Dawson Weaver 2-4, 2 RBIs, Gage Dempsey 1-1, 2B; Lakeside-Evans, Michael Arnold 2-3, 2 RBIs, Reid Tulowitzky 2-3, Brandon Van Arsdale 2-3, 2 Rs. Records—Columbus, 19-7; Lakeside-Evans, 11-15. Next—Columbus, Friday vs. Loganville/Kell (DH); Lakeside-Evans, season over.