Columbus turned to sophomore pitcher Jonathan Brand to save their season Friday night in the nightcap of a doubleheader against McIntosh in the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Blue Devils had their hearts ripped out in the first game when the bullpen allowed eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to lose 12-6. The team silently watched from the dugout as their lead turned into a six-run deficit.
“There hasn’t been a team all season long that’s put that many hits together against us,” Columbus coach Chad Mathis said.
The perennial contender’s championship aspirations fell on the diminutive underclassman’s shoulders and he confidently put the Chiefs away in a complete game 5-0 shutout.
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Columbus and McIntosh will play a tiebreaker at noon Saturday.
“I can’t say I didn’t get frustrated with them (after the first game), but I’ve been coaching long enough where we have had our back up against the wall before, my question for them was how are you going to respond?” Mathis said. “I was proud of the way they came out.”
McIntosh didn’t put a runner in scoring position until the fifth inning. All five of the Chiefs hits were singles.
“He has a great tempo,” Mathis said. “He does a good job when he gets it he’s ready to rock with the next pitch. I like that as a coach. I like to see a guy with a good tempo ready to pound the strike zone and keep the game moving.”
Columbus jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Cason Greathouse came around to score after leading off the inning with a double. Gage Dempsey bunted over Greathouse to third and Jerrette Lee knocked the run in with a single.
McIntosh committed a costly error in the fifth down 3-0 that helped the Blue Devils add a pair of insurance runs.
In the first game, the Chiefs chipped away at an early 5-0 deficit on the road versus Columbus in the opening round of the GHSA playoffs Friday.
In the seventh inning trailing 6-4, McIntosh lit up the scoreboard with eight runs on nine hits to capture game one of the doubleheader with a 12-6 win.
Chase Walter capped off the inning with a two-run home run over the fence in right-center field. Walter’s teammates greeted the designated hitter at home plate with a rowdy celebration as the home Blue Devils crowd sat stunned in their seats.
McIntosh batted around the order in the inning against relievers Clayton Duncan and Dawson Weaver with Garrett Stewart, Christopher Senghor and Drew Plant each hitting RBI singles and Van Neeley knocking in a run with a double.
The disastrous final frame wasted what had been a solid day at the plate for the Blue Devils.
Third baseman Jack Copley put Columbus on the board in the first inning with an RBI single. The Blue Devils’ number nine hitter Weaver knocked in a run in the bottom of the second with a two-out hit to left field. The shortstop hit a second double in the fourth inning and came around to score on Blake Hicks’ RBI single.
Columbus’ missed an opportunity in the third inning when it only plated three runs after loading the bases with no outs.
Designated hitter Gage Dempsey walked in a run and Trent Grantham smashed a ground ball up the middle of the infield to score two more runs, but Dempsey was doubled-up at third to end the inning.
Columbus starter Cason Greathouse labored through four innings for his team.
He worked out of trouble in the first three innings, but gave up three runs in the fourth when he walked three batters and gave up a pair of singles.
The Blue Devils went to Grantham in the bullpen for a quick fifth inning, but the reliever allowed McIntosh’s bottom of the order to load the bases in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Daniel Blair hit a RBI single to left field to make it 6-4. Grantham limited the damage by forcing a pair of pop-ups at the edge of the infield to end the inning.
Duncan came in for the save, but only recorded one out and was charged with four of the runs in the seventh.
Mathis was frustrated with the small mistakes his team made throughout the day — pointing to base runners getting doubled up in both games — but was ready to turn the page on the doubleheader as his team looks to advance in the GHSA playoffs.
“We want to take the momentum from this game into game three,” Mathis said. “I’m not worried about anything else but tomorrow’s game. I’m not looking ahead. I’m just worried about tomorrow.”
Friday at Columbus
WP: Hudson Macnellis. LP: Clayton Duncan. Top hitters: McIntosh Drew Plant 3-3, RBI; Chase Walter 3-5, 2R, 2RBI. Columbus Blake Hicks 1-2, RBI; Jack Copley 3-4, R, RBI; Gage Dempsey 1-3, RBI; Trent Grantham 2-3, 2RBI; Dawson Weaver 2-4, 2B, R, RBI.
WP: Jonathan Brand. LP: Jacob Cole. Top hitters: Columbus Jackson Mellenberg 1-4 RBI; Jerrette Lee 2-2, R, RBI Next: Teams play game three at noon Saturday