GHSA Class AAA Championship
COLUMBUS 6, RINGGOLD 3
Columbus 230 // 000 // 1 -- 6 // 5 // 0
Ringgold 000 // 030 // 0 -- 3 // 5 // 3
WP: Kyle Carter (12-2), 5-hitter, 6 Ks, 2 BBs. LP: Corey Kafka (9-3), 5-hitter, 1 ER, 10 Ks. 2B: Wright Hackett (R). Highlights: J.T. Phillips 2-2, RBI, run; Josh Lester 2 RBIs (C); Hackett 2-3, RBI, run; Slade Dale 2-4, RBI (R).
COLUMBUS 11, RINGGOLD 1
Ringgold 100 // 000 -- 1 // 4 // 4
Columbus 300 // 044 -- 11 // 12 // 0
WP: J.T. Phillips, 4-hitter, 6 Ks. LP: Adam Weldon (9-3). HR: Phillips, Pearce Ressmeyer (C). 2B: Slade Dale, Corey Kafka (R). Other highlights: Ressmeyer 3-4, 3 RBIs; Josh Lester 3-4; Phillips 2-4, 2 RBIs (C); Kafka RBI (R). Records: Columbus 33-4; Ringgold 29-9.
RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Among the many mistakes that could be attributed to the Ringgold High School baseball team in its GHSA Class AAA championship series loss Monday to Columbus High, the Tigers' coach felt the most costly was something they could not control.
In losing 6-3 and 11-1 to the three-peating Blue Devils (33-4), Ringgold committed seven errors. The sloppy play had nothing to do with being lackadaisical, coach Brent Tucker said. On the contrary, he felt the Tigers were tight for a very human reason.
"I really think they wanted it too much," he said as the Blue Devils celebrated in center field of Bill Womack Field after ending Ringgold's season for the third straight year. "We were tight, and if you've seen us play all year, we don't play like that. We haven't made seven errors total in the playoffs."
Inning one of each game was critical. Columbus star Kyle Carter was hit by a pitch to lead off the opener, and J.T. Phillips followed with a single that went under hard-charging center fielder Austin Parrish's glove all the way to the fence. Carter scored on the play and Phillips made it to third.
Josh Lester then hit a line drive that went off first baseman Adam Weldon's glove, and though Weldon recovered to get the out at first, Phillips scored for a quick 2-0 lead.
Two more errors followed in the second inning as the Devils scored three runs on two hits, one a two-out RBI single by Phillips. None of the first five runs was earned against Ringgold ace Corey Kafka, who allowed only five hits -- all singles -- in the game.
"Once we settled in, we played a great ballgame in the first one," Tucker said. "Corey pitched great and we kept the ball in the park, and that's huge against them. But you have to give credit to Kyle and J.T. for shutting us down. Nobody's done that all year."
The Tigers (29-9), held to one hit through four innings by the lefty Carter, rallied in the fifth for three runs, including RBI singles by Wright Hackett and Slade Dale, but Carter escaped further trouble when Read Walden's two-out fly ball was caught a foot away from the center-field fence. Carter allowed only a seventh-inning single to finish off a five-hitter.
As the visitors in game two, the Tigers greeted Columbus starter Phillips with back-to-back doubles by Dale and Kafka for a quick run. Allan Mochabee singled with one out, sending Kafka to third, but Phillips picked Mochabee off first base and struck out Weldon to end the promising inning.
The Blue Devils quickly seized momentum with three first-inning runs, and misplays again were the key. Phillips reached on a one-out error and Lester lined a single to left. Pearce Ressmeyer followed with a single that scored both runners when the ball went under left fielder Walden's glove. Anthony Pedrone made it 3-1 with a sacrifice fly.
It was more than enough for future Phillips, a future Georgia Bulldog who allowed only one hit in the final five innings. Columbus (33-4) ended any rally ideas with five runs in the fifth on two-run homers by Phillips and Ressmeyer and added three runs in the sixth.
"I think we were a little too pumped up today, over-excited," senior Walden said. "We had a great desire not to lose all year, and it carried us this far but couldn't get us through today. Sometimes a will to win and a desire to win just isn't enough."
Phillips had four hits and drove in three runs in the two games, while Lester and Ressmeyer had three hits each in game two. Carter had one hit in six at-bats with two walks.
"Ringgold's a great team and this is a tough place to play, but we feed off that kind of stuff," Phillips said. "We just made more plays than they did today."
It was a summary Tucker couldn't refute, though it won't change the way he feels about his team and its eight seniors.
"This was a big day for Ringgold," he said. "At this time last year we were picking up the pieces [from a tornado], and today we're playing for a state championship, so it was huge. The guys wanted to give them a championship ... maybe too much."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...