The Columbus and Hardaway baseball teams hadn’t met in a game since the 2010 season before they squared off in a Region 1-AAAAA contest on Tuesday at Hardaway.
The way things went for Blue Devils junior Cason Greathouse, however, he might want to see them more often.
While neither team played a clean game by any stretch, Greathouse tossed nine innings on the mound and picked up five hits at the plate to help the Blue Devils to a 4-3 extra-inning victory.
The win helps Columbus put a little distance between itself and the rest of the pack in Region 1-AAAAA. It is 7-1, while Hardaway fell to 5-4.
After battling through a cramp in his hand in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 2-2 tie, Greathouse roped an RBI double in the top of the 10th to score the team’s second run of the inning, which proved to be the difference when Hardaway plated one in the bottom half.
All told, Greathouse tossed just 91 pitches in nine innings, allowing two runs — one earned — on five hits and striking out seven.
“I just had to keep playing ball and not let it get in my head,” Greathouse said. “My goal was always to keep getting ahead and work my different pitches. Here and there, I felt a little tired, but I knew I had to push through it.”
Greathouse said the cramps started about the sixth inning, when the two teams were locked in a 2-2 tie. Columbus had scored a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI sacrifice bunt by Al Jones, but neither team appeared ready to take the game over. Indeed, there were five innings left to play after that.
The pitcher battled through, though, dodging trouble in the sixth when Hardaway’s Sam Anthony motored all the way to third base on an error in shallow left-center field. A pop up fell just out of the glove, and Anthony, who was already to second base by the time it reached the fielder, took third as well. Greathouse walked Jalin Thomas, one of only two free passes in the game, then struck out Blake Rupp, intentionally walked Tre’Von Dorsey and struck out Marcell Byrd.
The inning came to a close when Anthony tried to catch the defense napping and swipe home, but he was called out to end the threat. Greathouse then retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced to keep the Hawks off the board.
In the top of the 10th inning, after the go-ahead run had scored on an error on a failed double-play attempt, Greathouse added the necessary insurance for the Blue Devils with an RBI double to centerfield. The run put them ahead 4-2, enough to withstand a run by Hardaway in the bottom half of the inning.
“I just had to be relaxed and look for that one pitch that I could drive because I’ve been struggling,” Greathouse said of his 10th-inning hit.
“He just did his job,” coach Chad Mathis said. “I mean, that guy battled. That’s the main reason we stayed in that game as long as we did, because we missed some opportunities, we really did.”
In the second inning, Columbus scored just one run despite loading the bases with one out. In the fifth, Greathouse had a leadoff double and the Blue Devils went on to load the bases with none out after back-to-back hit by pitches. They scored one on a sacrifice by Jones, but hit into a double play to end the inning. In the seventh, they had runners at second and third with only one out, but a popup on a bunt attempt and a flyout to left field ended the inning with no damage.
“At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have been in that situation, but you’ve got to give Hardaway credit,” Mathis said. “We didn’t play fundamental ball the way we teach, that we expect them to play, but I give a lot of credit to our guys. They fought hard. I told you earlier in the year this (region) was a dogfight, and that’s what tonight was.”
Despite the loss, Hardaway got a strong outing from Marcell Byrd, who went seven innings on the mound, allowing just three hits, two runs (one earned) and striking out four.
Both teams will play again Thursday, Columbus against Harris County and Hardaway against Shaw.
Tuesday at Hardaway
Columbus 010 010 000 2—4 7 6
Hardaway 002 000 000 1—3 7 3
WP—Cason Greathouse. LP—Tony Locey. Leading hitters—Columbus, Cason Greathouse 5-5, RBI; Hardaway, Sam Anthony 1-5, 2 RBIs, Jalin Thomas 2-4, RBI. Records—Columbus, 10-3, 7-1; Hardaway, 11-5, 5-4. Next—Columbus, Thursday vs. Harris County; Hardaway, Thursday vs. Shaw.