March 5, 2014 11:42:44 AM
Isaiah Farmer waited patiently and observed last season as a reserve on the Columbus High School baseball team.
Now that he is getting his chance in the starting lineup, the junior outfielder hasn't disappointed. Farmer collected two hits, drove in two runs and had a highlight-reel catch as Columbus defeated West Point 12-1 in five innings Tuesday night at Sammy Fletcher Field.
"Isaiah has come in and filled one of the two biggest needs we had coming into the season," Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook said. "He has seven or eight hits through three games and does a great job in the field. He runs the bases aggressively and well.
"You look at his contributions and you look at the play of Deonteau Rieves at second base. Brian Ezell got into the lineup tonight at first base and had two hits. We will be mixing and matching the lineup a lot, especially early in the season. You have to like what you are seeing from the young guys."
Farmer credits the leadership of seniors Trace Lee, Chris McCullough, and Hunter Mullis as keys to moving the program further. The Falcons have advanced to the playoffs the past three years. This season, they hope to make a longer run toward the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 6A state championship.
"I had to work really hard to get where I have come from," Farmer said. "I want to be just like Chris (McCullough). He is my role model on the team. I like him a lot. The seniors have been so great and they lead by example. They are the ones who have pushed us during the offseason in hopes of having a special season."
Columbus made quick work of West Point in less than two hours thanks in large part to a nine-run third inning. The outburst broke a 1-1 tie and helped the Falcons improve to 3-0. Columbus sent 13 batters to the plate, collected six hits, and took advantage of two errors.
"I think we are going to be able to have more innings like that this year," Farmer said. "This year, coach is stressing to us more quality at-bats. We are going to try to put the ball in play and take advantage of every pitch."
McCullough had a two-run double, while Farmer and Greg Sykes each added two-run singles in the inning.
"Our approach with two strikes was really good," Cook said."You have to change your approach, and I thought we did a really great job of that. This is a senior ballclub. They have played together for a long time. You can tell they are hungry. A good team win like this is what makes it fun."
The big inning was more than enough for the left-handed McCullough, who allowed two hits in four innings. An RBI double by Steffon More in the third broke up the shutout.
Mullis pitched the fifth to complete a three-hitter.
"I can't do it by myself," said McCullough, who aided his cause with a team-high three RBIs and three of the team's 10 hits. "I work for my defense. The job is to throw strikes and to pitch to contact. I know the guys behind me have my back and will make the plays."
McCullough appreciated the complimentary words from Frazier and said teamwork between the new and old can help push the Falcons to another level this season.
"We really work well together as a team," McCullough said. "That is what I have learned this season. We worked really hard in the offseason. We are not a perfect team, but we are striving for that perfection."
Having established itself as a regular playoff participant, Columbus is eager to return to the postseason and advance. Still, the Class 6A state championship series had to feel a long way from Tuesday night, where temperatures hovered around the freezing mark by the last time the pitch was thrown.
"Everybody is excited," Cook said. "We have about 12 games to get everything worked out before division play starts. The kids have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. Now we need to make the most of it."
n New Hope 9, Houston 0: At Amory, Josh Stillman threw five shutout innings to lead the Class 5A defending state champion Trojans (3-0) to a victory at the Amory High tournament.
Stillman walked one and struck out 10.
Taylor Stafford had a single, Payton Lane had two singles, and Parker Earhart also had a single. New Hope capitalized on 10 walks.
n In other scores, West Lowndes defeated Noxubee County 14-3 and Starkville (3-1) defeated Choctaw County 12-0 and lost to Kosciusko 13-4 at the Ackerman High tournament.
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.