March 9, 2013 10:07:39 PM
Columbus High School pitcher Hunter Mullis' confidence rarely wavers.
His catcher, Gavonta Webb, has tried to emulate the pitcher's cool demeanor as he has worked through an early season hitting slump.
On Friday against West Point High, Mullis and Webb had their resolve tested in the team's second-straight game in which it had four or more errors and struggled to generate offense. But, in dire need of a victory before it leaves for the Disney Wide World Classic in Orlando, Webb and Mullis delivered their best performances of the season.
Down 4-3 with two outs in the eighth inning, Webb saw teammate Michael Sturdivant draw an intentional walk. Buried in the nine-hole and lamenting a string of pop outs earlier in the game, Webb laced a two-run walk-off single to center field to lift Columbus to a 5-4 victory. The hit was Webb's first career walk-off hit.
"Everything I've been working on this year -- hitting the first pitch and driving the ball -- I had to put it all together right there," Webb said. "I was losing it earlier in the game ... popping pitches up for easy outs. But when they put Mike (Sturdivant) on, I had to put that confidence (Columbus) coach (Jeffrey) Cook has given me in the cage (to use)."
Up until Webb's walk-off hit, Columbus (5-2) and West Point (3-2) traded errors and struggled against solid pitching. All four of West Point's runs were unearned, though it didn't affect Mullis, who got out of the second, fourth and fifth by facing the minimum batters. Mullis gave up two hits, struck out seven, and walked three in 6 1/3 innings. He had strikeouts to end the sixth and seventh with runners in scoring position.
"Hunter, he never gets nervous," Webb said. "He smiled every time I went to the mound."
Said Cook, "Hunter has been our captain each of the last two years. Games like tonight show why."
While Mullis dominated the Green Wave, his counterpart, Tez Lane, wowed Columbus hitters and Cook with his fastball and off-speed pitches. The senior gave up one earned run on two hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked five.
"I have a tremendous amount of confidence whenever Tez throws," West Point coach Buddy Wyers said. "He's got a live fastball and he's gonna throw strikes. You know he can control his off-speed pitches for strikes."
Heading into four spring break games against teams for Texas and New Jersey, Cook said his team will benefit tremendously from facing Lane, whom he calls a "draftable guy."
"I wish we had him," Cook said. "Tez has got a Division I slider. He doesn't throw as hard as the big boys do, but he's a heck of an athlete."
Sturdivant and Webb each led the Falcons with a two-run hit.
Wyers and Cook bemoaned poor defensive play, which led to tying runs for each team in the final frame.
"A loss like this is a little bit easier whenever somebody beats you, which wasn't the case tonight," Wyers said. "I think we did a lot of things individually, to ourselves, that cost us. That's what makes it tough ... if you can do the things you've taught and you've done before, you give yourself a chance to win."
n Hamilton splits games: At Hamilton, The Lions rallied for one run in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night to beat Philadelphia 5-4.
On Saturday, Smithville defeated Hamilton 13-3.
Against Philadelphia, Austin Lewis and McKellar Conwill had hits. Lewis also had an RBI and struck out eight in 3 2/3 innings. Gage Morris added an RBI for the Lions.
Silas Gill struck out two in 2 1/3 innings.
Against Smithville, Caleb Garvin had three hits in the mercy-rule shortened game.