Columbia defeats Vanguard in game of inches
Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey once said that baseball is a game of inches.
That couldn’t have been truer Friday night in the Jungle.
With Columbia clinging to a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded for Vanguard, Jimmy Kirk sent a liner off of reliever Garrett Finnell into right field.
It looked as if the ball would squeak through to the wall and ruin Columbia’s night.
But Brock Edge came to the rescue, diving hard to his left to come away with the ball in his glove just before it hit the grass for the first out of the inning.
It was a play that saved the game, as the Tigers ultimately held on for a 3-2 district win over the Knights for the second straight night.
“I was just thinking to just go make a play for my teammates because they were playing hard, so you got to give them what they deserve,” Edge said. “I was pretty excited.”
Finnell came in to relieve Jordan Culp, who had loaded the bases to begin the sixth before surrendering an RBI single to Tyler Adams that finally put Vanguard on the scoreboard. That was enough for Columbia head coach Heath Phillips to pull Culp in favor of Finnell, who immediately faced Kirk and nearly had the game blown open.
If it wasn’t for Edge, of course.
“It was outstanding. He saved my butt,” Finnell said.
Finnell gave up one more run on an RBI groundout to Tommy Knowd before getting Dawson Hamilton to pop out to Alex Mitchell at shortstop to end the threat and help preserve Columbia’s fifth straight win.
“That was the game. He did exactly was he was supposed to do. He came up big and saved the game right there,” Phillips said.
Tyler Myrick started on the mound for the Tigers and pitched four scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the season while Harrison Shubert pitched a scoreless seventh inning to pick up the save.
“I thought Tyler threw really well,” Phillips said. “He kept the ball down for the most part, got a lot of ground balls, kept his pitch count down and moving forward it’s looking good.”
Myrick, who was pulled after the fourth due to pitch count, surrendered only one hit while striking out three.
But his real damage came at the plate in the third inning.
After a leadoff single by Witt Register and a double from Culp, Myrick tripled deep to centerfield off of Vanguard starting pitcher Chase Denton to put Columbia ahead 2-0.
“I was in a slump the past few games so I came in the second at-bat and I thought I had a better approach and squared it up and it happened to get us the win,” Myrick said.
Kaleb Thomas then brought Myrick home with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Denton pitched three and two-thirds innings for the Knights (3-8, 0-4), giving up three runs on six hits. Knowd relieved Denton and pitched the rest of the way for Vanguard, giving up two hits that included a triple to Edge.
The Tigers (5-4, 2-0) will ride their five-game winning streak into a three-game schedule next week, beginning with Lowndes at home Tuesday. Columbia will then travel to Gainesville on Thursday before hosting the Hurricanes again on Friday in two crucial district games.
Gainesville is already 4-0 in District 3-7A but Columbia’s confidence is riding high.
“We’re going about our business the right way,” Phillips said. “They’re not getting bigheaded. They know what we’re here to do, and part of our job is to keep them on even ground the whole way through because it’s baseball — anything can happen. One play, one ground ball, one pop fly, it can go the other way, so it’s a game of inches.”
Just ask the Knights.
PAINE REACHES OUT TO CHS DUO
Columbia outfielders Jake Thomas and Jonathan Hardin each received their first scholarship offers from Paine College on Saturday.