Vikings sink Tigers
When the game was over and the dust had settled, the Tigers could point to a single inning that ended their five-game winning streak Tuesday night.
An error in the second inning kept the Vikings’ offense alive and they made the Tigers pay. Lowndes scored four unearned runs with two outs that proved to be the difference in the ball game as the Tigers fell to the Vikings 6-3 at home.
Columbia jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Jake Thomas in the first before Lowndes took the lead for good in the second.
Nic Liu scored on the crucial error in the inning that allowed Lowndes to put together back-to-back doubles to take a 4-1 lead. Colby Hall knocked a 2-RBI double and Mark Felton followed with an RBI two-base hit that chased Columbia starting pitcher Josh Boyette from the game after just one and two-thirds innings.
“We have to find a way after something bad happens like that to come back and respond,” Phillips said. “It’s not time to hang our heads. Play our game. The next ball is going to find you. That’s the way it works out. The ball is always going to find you.”
Felton went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. The Lowndes catcher had an RBI single in the fourth and later scored on a wild pitch in the sixth.
The Vikings (4-5) had 12 hits against five Columbia pitchers and put the leadoff hitter on base in five innings. The Tigers (5-5) threw their bullpen to preserve their starting rotation for Thursday and Friday’s crucial district matchups with Gainesville.
“The game is a whole lot easier when you get the leadoff hitter out in each inning,” Phillips said. “Whether it was by a hit, error, it seemed like they had one guy on every inning and that’s more work for us.”
Garrett Finnell, Tyler Morgan, Jeremy Garnier and Tyson Ellis all pitched in addition to Boyette. Finnell was charged with an earned run in the fourth while Garnier threw the wild pitch that allowed Felton to score in the sixth.
“Overall we’re pleased with how each and every one of them threw,” Phillips said. “We need to get the ball down. We had a lot of balls deep in the outfield. We got to pitch to our spots but they came through.”
Lowndes starting pitcher Avery Stephens got the win in four innings on the mound, surrendering only one earned run on four hits despite zero strikeouts. T.J. Price scored on a groundout after reaching on an error to begin the bottom of the second.
Columbia surged a little at the end, scoring a run in the seventh off of Dalton Smith, who pitched the final three innings for Lowndes. Smith also didn’t record a strikeout but only gave up three hits, including an RBI double to Chris Beasley in the seventh that scored Alex Mitchell.
Tuesday nights’ matchup was still much different than the teams’ meeting a year ago, when the Vikings beat the Tigers 13-0 in five innings.
Phillips purposely scheduled Lowndes again in-between district matchups with Vanguard and Gainesville to keep his players focused. He wanted his players to see some talented live pitching in addition to getting his bullpen some work before sliding into the heart of their schedule.
“Heading into Gainesville we’re still fine,” Phillips said. “Yes we want to win every one of them but you’re not sometimes. That’s a good ball club. They beat some really good teams and they beat us tonight.”