July 10, 2012 12:12:46 PM
STARKVILLE -- Terry Fitch knew his team had a bull's eye on its back.
Entering the championship game of the 10-year-old Dizzy Dean South State tournament, Fitch realized his team's 4-0 record to that point wouldn't guarantee success.
That's why the Columbus Nationals coach talked to his players about keeping their poise and focus and stressing how emotional Louisville, which was fresh off a victory in an elimination game that morning against Clinton, was going to be, especially after it had lost to Columbus 19-0 on Sunday.
"The first couple of innings (Louisville) made some really great plays in the field and held us to one run," Fitch said. "You could tell it shook us up a little bit because we were used to scoring four or five runs an inning."
It turns out all Columbus had to do was wait a little bit for an offensive onslaught.
Weston Lowery provided the capping blow with a grand slam in an eight-run fifth inning that helped push Columbus to a 16-12 victory.
The victory helped Columbus go 5-0 in the double-elimination event. It also secured a spot for the team in the Dizzy Dean World Series, which will start July 20 in Southaven.
"In the third and the fourth innings, the hits started to fall and we were able to pick up our runs and made us feel a little better about it," Fitch said. "We had to remain focused. I told them as easy as it had been in the first four games, it wasn't going to be easy in the last one and that we had to keep our composure and stay focused. For the most part, they did that."
Davis Fitch, Tyler Murphy, and Presley Hall each had three hits, including a double, while David Young had a single and a double, and Cade Stacy, Landon Sanderson, Brady Stewart, and Cole Ruffin had singles.
Murphy pitched the first three innings and gave way to Stacy, who pitched the final three innings to send Columbus to the World Series.
"We were certainly excited as a team," Fitch said. "It was something we talked about as a team. This whole month, we knew we had the potential to win it, but we knew we had to keep our focus and keep our attitudes good. It was just a sweet feeling from all of us. There weren't any dogpiles celebrating (after the game). It was just fun getting the job done that we knew we could do. We had a lot of fan support even on Monday on a work day. As a group we were all excited."
Columbus led 8-5 entering the fifth before it broke the game open. Lowery's blast, the team's second home run of the tournament, was the exclamation point for a team that relied on offensive production throughout its lineup. Fitch said six players hit home runs in three warmup tournaments prior to the South State event. Hall hit the other home run for Columbus at the Dizzy Dean South State tournament.
Fitch said the team's pitching depth also played a key role in its run. He said all 11 players on the roster were capable of pitching, and that he didn't think he had a pitcher throw more than four innings in the tournament.
"It was a combination (of hitting and pitching that fueled the team)," Fitch said. "I knew going in that we should be able to score a lot of runs. It was the same with the pitchers. I thought we would be able to hold teams down, and we did that, except for this last game."