May 2, 2014 10:16:23 AM
CLINTON -- The Columbus High School baseball team liked the feeling of playoff success so much it added to the best season in program history on Thursday night.
Trace Lee pitched a complete game and added two hits, while Hunter Mullis had three hits and Chris McCullough and Michael Sturdivant each had two RBIs to lead Columbus to a 7-4 victory against Clinton in Game 1 of their Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North State playoff series.
"You could just tell on the bus ride down they were ready to play," Columbus High coach Jeffrey Cook said. "Everybody had an ease about them. We started in the first inning and in Gevonta's first at-bat he gets down 0-2 and fouls off five or six in a row and we manufacture a run in the first inning. I just saw the confidence we had at the plate and were able to get 10 hits and move people around. We didn't strike out very much last night. They are feeling pretty good. We have one of the best guys in the state on our side in Hunter Mullis (tonight's starting pitcher), so we're going to do our best to try to take care of it tonight."
Columbus (22-6) will try to close out the series at 6 tonight in Columbus. If needed, Game 3 will be at 6 p.m. Saturday back in Clinton.
A week ago, Columbus swept Olive Branch, the team that knocked it out of the playoffs last season, in a best-of-three play-in series in what Cook believes is the first playoff series in the program's history. The Falcons received stellar pitching performances from Lee and Mullis to advance to face the Arrows, the top seed from Region 4. That trend continues Friday night for Columbus, the No. 2 seed out of Region 3, as Lee scattered 10 hits, walked two and struck out eight.
Columbus had multiple contributors on offense. The Falcons scored a run in the fourth to tie the game at 4-all. They then used a three-run sixth to put the game away. Webb walked and Mullis was hit by a pitch. McCullough greeted the relief pitcher with a hit to break the tie and push runners to first and third. Following two strikeouts, Sturdivant delivered his Class 6A state-leading 13th double down the left-field line to score two runs.
"He really didn't look good in the first two at-bats, but I just had a feeling he was fixin' to get on," Cook said. "It was a sharp hit and a big hit in that game. It gave us a little bit of breathing room. It was just a big, clutch."
Lee closed the game by helping to turn the second of two double plays in the bottom of the seventh. He threw a comebacker to second baseman Deonteau Rieves, who threw to first, where McCullough scooped it out of the dirt.
"He battled," Cook said. "His pitch count was up in the last inning and I went up to him and he said, 'Coach, you're not taking me out. I want to finish this game,' " Cook said. "He battled through it and struck out their cleanup guy looking for the last out."
In addition to his three hits, Mullis scored two runs, had a double, and an RBI. McCullough scored a run, Sturdivant had a double, Gevonta Webb stole two bases and scored three runs, Greg Sykes had an RBI, Isaiah Farmer was 1-for-4 with an RBI, and Rieves was 1-for-2 with a run scored.
n Caledonia takes fifth at Class 4A meet: At Holly Springs, the Caledonia High School boys golf team finished fifth Thursday at the Class 4A state meet at Kirkwood National Golf Club.
The Confederates shot rounds of 355 and 358 to finish fifth at 713. St. Stanislaus won the team title with a 656.
Eli Hemphill had the low round (85) for Caledonia in the two-day event. His total of 174 edged teammates Dylan Darling (87-90--177) and Eli Taylor (91-86--177) for the best on the team. Parker Humber (92-93--185) and Caleb Comer (94-101--195) rounded out the Confederates' lineup.