April 17, 2013 1:47:42 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
On a night where the stakes were a little high and mistakes were a little more magnified, the Columbus High School baseball team made too many errors to win a Class 6A, Region 2 championship.
Tupelo took advantage of five Columbus errors to record an 8-2 victory in a head-to-head matchup for the region's regular season championship at Sammy Fletcher Field.
"Championship teams make plays," Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook said. "Tupelo made an unbelievable catch down the line to rob a base hit. They made a couple of other outstanding plays in the outfield.
"They made the plays. They got the big hit when it counted. That was the difference in the ballgame."
All was not lost for Columbus Tuesday night however. In the other Region 2-6A contest, Grenada scored three times in the seventh inning to upset South Panola, 5-3. Thus, Tupelo (18-8, 6-3) is the region champion; Columbus is the No. 2 seed (16-8, 5-4) and South Panola is the No. 3 seed (14-9, 5-4).
Columbus will begin the playoffs with home-field advantage in a first-round playoff series with Olive Branch, beginning April 26.
"God has a plan for our team," Cook said. "We didn't come out and play well enough to win a district championship. A lot of times in the Super Bowl, division championships don't win it. Wild cards who get in at the last minute win it.
"As long as you make the playoffs, you have a chance."
Tupelo took advantage of wildness from Columbus starting pitcher Trace Lee to plate one run in the first inning. Lee walked two and the Falcons also made an error behind him for the 1-0 deficit.
In the third inning, the Golden Wave broke the game open with six runs on four base hits. With the bases loaded and no outs, a potential double play ball was erred on the infield and the floodgates opened. Rob McAulley followed with a two-run single and Ben Matthews smashed a two-run home run.
On this night, that would be more than enough offense for Tupelo junior left-hander Hudson Roy. In a regular season meeting, Tupelo held a 6-1 sixth-inning when a tiring Roy gave the lead to the bullpen. Columbus rallied to win 7-6 in 11 innings.
This time, there would be no such rally.
"Hats off to Tupelo tonight," Cook said. "They pitched it well. They defended it well. They didn't make an error in the game. Everything they did to help us out last time, they didn't do tonight."
Columbus scored twice in the fourth inning on a wild pitch and RBI-single by Greg Sykes. The Falcons again had two base runners in both the sixth and seventh innings, but Roy worked out of both of those tight spots.
Lee allowed seven hits and eight runs (four earned) in four innings of work Hunter Mullis completed the contest on the mound. Roy allowed five hits in a complete-game performance.
"For three years, we have been grinding now," Cook said. "Our kids are still learning. Since they were 10 or 12 years old, the Tupelo kids have probably played twice as many games together as our group has. It's a process. We are getting there."
Michael Ray and McAuley each had multiple hits for Tupelo, which won its eighth straight game Tuesday night.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter