RINGGOLD 8, COLUMBUS 2
Ringgold 002 000 6 - 8 8 0
Columbus 000 000 2 - 2 3 2
WP: Matthew Crownover (8-1), 12 Ks, BB. LP: Kyle Carter, 6 1/3 IP, 5 ER. HR: Crownover (R); J.T. Phillips (C). 2B: Jordan Weems (C). Other highlights: Crownover, Caleb Jones 2 RBIs each; Reed Walden 2-4, RBI, run (R); Phillips 2 RBIs (C).
COLUMBUS 9, RINGGOLD 8
Columbus 200 102 4 - 9 3 6
Ringgold 011 600 0 - 8 8 3
WP: Will Solomon. LP: Corey Kafka. 3B: Matthew Crownover (R). 2B: Jordan Weems (C); Caleb Jones (R). Other highlights: Cody Walker, Weems 2 RBIs each (C); Reed Walden 2-4, 2 RBIs; Colton Cross 2-3; Crownover 2 RBIs (R). Records: Columbus 23-7; Ringgold 24-3.
COLUMBUS, Ga. - Challenges are something this Ringgold High School baseball team has suddenly become accustomed to, and if the Tigers are to continue their run to a possible Class AAA championship they'll have to conquer yet another one today.
Ringgold (24-3) used a masterful pitching performance from junior ace Matthew Crownover to defeat defending state champion Columbus 8-2 in game one of the teams' second-round best-of-three series Wednesday. However, the Tigers blew an 8-3 lead as the Blue Devils (23-7) scored two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh to escape with a 9-8 win.
Game three will be today at 3, but before then coach Brent Tucker knows his players have to put the final two innings out their minds.
"We made too many mistakes there at the end," said Tucker, referring to three errors and four walks in the final two innings. "We played a flawless first game, but we gave them too much in the second. The big thing is we're still alive and playing ball tomorrow. We've got to pick ourselves up and go play ball like we did in game one.
"It's another challenge, another hurdle for this team to jump over. We had some opportunities to score even more, but we didn't. We just didn't execute the whole game. At one time we had a no-hitter going and they had three runs, so it just wasn't there."
Senior right-hander Colton Cross allowed no hits through the first five innings of game two, but two walks, four wild pitches and a passed ball led to three Columbus runs. The Tigers, though, appeared to be cruIsing to a sweep after the usually-reliable Columbus defense committed four errors in a six-run Ringgold fourth inning.
The errors, along with a two-run triple by Crownover and Reed Walden's two-run single, put the Tigers up 8-3 after four. However, a two-out walk with the bases empty, two subsequent infield errors and Tyler Mathis' RBI single plated two runs and set the table for the nightmarish seventh inning.
Cross was lifted after Columbus' Spencer Daws reached on yet another error, but hard-throwing junior Corey Kafka, after a strikeout, walked two batters and gave up Jordan Weems' two-run double. Kafka was lifted, but Adam Weldon was greeted by Cody Walker's go-ahead two-run single.
Ringgold's Walden reached second in the bottom of the seventh, but resilient Columbus starter Will Solomon retired the next three to end the game and secure the split.
"We handed them the game," a disappointed Crownover said. "They just had four hits the entire game. I love my teammates to death, but we can't play loose like that. Colt pitched a great game after settling down. I know this, if we come out flat tomorrow, they'll score nine runs in the first inning. We need to come out, throw strikes and make plays."
There was no such drama in game one as Crownover gave up just three hits and struck out 12 in gaining revenge over Columbus ace Kyle Carter, who won last year's matchup in the Class AAA championship series. Crownover, like Carter last year, also had the big hit, a two-run homer in the third inning that gave Ringgold a 2-0 lead.
It was still 2-0 in the seventh when the Tigers batted around to plate six, two scoring on Jones' two-run single.
Crownover faced just one over the minimum through six innings, finally giving up a hit in the fifth. However, he developed a nasty blister on his pitching hand in the sixth and he gave up a pair of hits, including J.T. Phillips' two-run homer in the seventh.
That blister might hinder the ace's availability in game three, though he wouldn't rule it out.
"If I can fix this finger I can go a bit," he said. "We can put this behind us and win for Ringgold. Hey, at least we don't have to go back to school."
* Defending Class AA champion Calhoun was swept in its second-round playoff series at Buford, losing 12-1 and 15-3.