HAMILTON, Ga. — After losing control of a three-run lead in the fifth inning and falling behind in the sixth, Harris County coach Steve Westmoreland gathered his team in the dugout to calm the players down.
His message: Just have quality at-bates.
The Tigers did just that in the bottom half of the sixth and seventh innings, scoring one run in each and walking off with a 6-5 win over visiting Columbus on Tuesday. The final run came on a bases-loaded walk by Hunter Morgan to push across Kurt Ornowski for the game-winner.
“We just have to have quality at-bats,” Westmoreland said. “That’s what I always tell them. (Columbus pitcher Cason Greathouse) is getting deep in the pitch count and we felt like if we could go out and make him work, we could have some success.”
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The game was the first in Region 1-AAAAA play for both teams, giving Harris County an early leg up on Columbus. Both will undoubtedly be firmly in the race for the region championship by season’s end. Westmoreland said this game was big because it was the first one and because any time you can get a win in this region, it’s important.
“It’s always good to get the first one on the board,” he said. “They’re all going to be big. This is a really good baseball region. It’s going to be a dogfight every night. You’ve got to be prepared for every region game you play.”
The Tigers came out prepared early, holding Columbus to an early run in the first inning and taking a 4-1 advantage into the fourth. After giving up an RBI single to Dawson Weaver in the top of the first, Casey Cobb responded with a solo home run for the Tigers in the bottom half.
They added two on a two-RBI single by Ornowski in the second and one in the third on a suicide squeeze by Hunter Morgan to score Cobb.
The lead was secure at 4-1 until Columbus came to bat in the fifth. The Blue Devils had already scored a run in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Knox Carter. In the fifth, Weaver singled and with two outs in the inning, Russell Forthofer knocked a two-run home run to tie the game at 4-4. Jack Copley broke the tie with a solo homer for Columbus in the sixth, before Harris County was able to get back on track and win it in the final two innings.
After scoring a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth, Harris County held Columbus scoreless and led off the bottom of the seventh with a double by Ornowski. A sacrifice bunt by Hunter Hartshorne put Ornowski at third with one out. Columbus elected to intentionally walk both Cobb and Maley, and nearly escaped the inning after striking out Jacob Rovig for the second out. Morgan drew a walk, however, to push home the winning run.
“We always have confidence in Kurt to get on and Hunter can move our guys across,” Westmoreland said. “We had two guys that probably eat more pitches than anybody at the plater. Our three and four hole guys didn’t get a chance to swing, but we have a couple guys behind them who really compete.”
“I was just looking for the first pitch I could square up,” Ornowski said of his leadoff double. “You just live inning to inning and get your mind refocused after every pitch. Just dig in.”
Harris County will dig in for its second region contest on Wednesday against Shaw. Columbus will face LaGrange, also on Wednesday. Both games were moved from Thursday because of the threat of rain.
Tuesday at Harris County
Columbus 100 121 0 — 5 10 1
Harris County 121 001 1— 6 7 0
WP—Drew Reeves. LP—Dawson Weaver. Top hitters—Columbus, Weaver 2-3, RBI, R, Russell Forthofer 2-4, HR, 2 RBIs, R, Jack Copely 1-3, HR, RBI, R; Harris County, Kurt Ornowski 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBIs, Casey Cobb 1-2, HR, RBI, R, Tyler Maley 1-3, 2B, Hunter Morgan 1-2, 3B, 2 RBIs, R. Records—Columbus, 3-3, 0-1 Region 1-AAAAA; Harris County, 6-1, 1-0. Next—Columbus, Wed. vs. LaGrange; Harris County, Wed. vs. Shaw.