Columbus coach Chad Mathis took senior pitcher Cason Greathouse out of the game with one out in the seventh inning and the team holding a five-run lead.
Greathouse had allowed two straight batters to reach and was facing a first-and-third situation with a shutout still intact. Mathis decided to give another pitcher, Dawson Weaver, an opportunity to finish out the game, but advised Greathouse to stay ready on the bench.
Unlike college and professional ball, a pitcher can re-enter the game on the mound after being taken out. And that’s exactly what the Blue Devils needed from their ace.
After three runs came across without another out being recorded, Greathouse came back in and struck out the final two batters to finish off a 5-3 win for Columbus.
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It was an odd stat line for the senior, who technically pitched a complete game despite coming out of the game for three batters. He struck out 10 and picked up the victory.
“To be honest, (Greathouse) didn’t want to come out,” Mathis said. “And I didn’t want to take him out, but it gave us an opportunity to see some guys work. In the back of my mind, I felt like if (Weaver) got in trouble … You always want to hand the ball back to the guy who got you to where you’re at.”
Despite allowing two earned runs in the final inning, the senior was on top of his game for the six previous frames. He set down Shaw’s first 11 batters, finally allowing one to reach base on a walk with two outs in the fourth. He didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the fifth and had allowed just two hits and a walk through six.
Columbus entered the final inning with a 5-0 lead, having gotten one RBI each from Jerrette Lee, Blake Hicks, Greathouse, Jack Copley and Jackson Mellenberg. Lee also finished the game with three hits and two runs scored, including a first-to-home dash on a ball that barely left the infield in the fifth inning.
The Blue Devils called a hit-and-run with Lee standing at first base and Hicks at the plate. As Lee took off, the ball was grounded behind him and into the hole vacated by the second baseman. The ball bounced slowly into shallow right-center field, and Lee came all the way around to score the game’s second run.
“The hit-and-run was on, and once I saw it was going through, I knew I was going to be rounding the bases,” Lee said.
“(Shaw pitcher Andrew) Tillery was quick to the plate and with Alex Marquand’s arm throwing to second, it just wasn’t a great stealing opportunity,” Mathis said. “I felt like we could get a guy in motion, and Blake, our two-hole hitter, does a good job of controlling the bat, and we went with it.”
Columbus scored twice more in the inning to build its lead to 4-0 after five and added one in the sixth to make it 5-0.
In the top of the seventh, Shaw got an RBI walk by Kyle Pate, scored Kaleb Podger on a wild pitch and brought Wesley Johnson home on an RBI single by Jalen Williams before Greathouse returned to shut the door.
Mathis said that his team needs to remember that games can change at any moment and to always finish strong. Lee had a similar message after the game.
“We were doing everything right throughout the game,” he said. “Pitching was great, everyone was hitting really well. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to finish. The last three, last six outs of the game are the hardest outs to get, and we have to go out there and try to get it done.”
The two teams meet again at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Shaw.
Columbus 5, Shaw 3
Thursday at Columbus
WP: Cason Greathouse. LP: Andrew Tillery. Top hitters: Shaw, Kaleb Podger 2-3, R, Jalen Williams 1-3, RBI; Columbus, Jerrette Lee 3-3, RBI, 2R, Blake Hicks 1-4, 2B, RBI, Cason Greathouse 1-3, RBI, Jackson Mellenberg 2-3, RBI, Dawson Weaver 2-3. Records: Shaw, 3-7, 1-4 Region 1-5A; Columbus, 10-1, 4-1. Next: Columbus at Shaw, 4:30 p.m. Friday.