March 26, 2011 11:07:00 PM
Columbus High School''s youth-led baseball team earned an important trump card Friday in its victory against Starkville: A playoff tiebreaker.
The Falcons (8-4, 2-0 Class 6A, Region 2) received two RBIs from freshman Chris McCullough and an RBI from freshman Greg Sykes to beat the Yellow Jackets 7-4 Friday night.
Columbus was outhit by three and had to fend off a late surge by Starkville, which cut a four-run deficit to two in the fifth.
Senior Nick Durrah earned the win after giving up four runs on nine hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked two.
"We haven''t had a tiebreaker advantage this early in the season since my first year here (2007)," Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook said. "It''s huge right now, and we''re playing well. Everyone is doing their role."
Cook''s young squad lost a key member when freshman shortstop/pitcher Trace Lee broke his foot Wednesday playing basketball, one day after Columbus beat Starkville on the road.
Lee was slated to throw two innings of relief Friday, but Durrah threw six innings before Christian Dale entered in the seventh to get the save.
"He battled some early injuries from the first of the year, a little leg problem, so he''s really just now getting into it," Cook said of Durrah. "He just battled. I don''t think he had his best stuff, but he made some plays."
The Falcons made short work of pitcher Lee Peeples, who lasted 1 1/3 innings before being relieved by Blake Harrell. Columbus got a sacrifice fly RBI from McCullough and an RBI single from Sykes for the early 2-0 lead.
Starkville answered with a sacrifice fly from Wesley Montgomery and an RBI single from Victor Johnson.
Peeples walked the bases loaded in the second before Harrell walked in two runs before getting out of the inning.
More shaky play ensued in the third, as Harrell walked the first two batters before giving up an RBI single to Aaron Cooks. An error from Garrett Batson at first base to Blake Dawkins at home allowed another run.
"Not being able to make plays to win the game hurt us again," Starkville coach Danny Carlisle said. "We had opportunities to make plays to win the ballgame. Five out of their seven runs were either hit or walked. That''s unfortunate. We outhit them, then we outwalk them. It definitely puts us in a bind as far as postseason play."
Starkville, which saw a 2-2 tie turn into a rout by giving up six runs in the late innings Tuesday, tried to pull off a dramatic comeback in the fifth Friday.
Harrell''s deep triple scored Jaquez Johnson, and Dawkins had an RBI single that prompted a visit to the mound by Cook. But with Jordan Allgood at second base, the Yellow Jackets (3-5, 0-2) hit into an inning-ending 6-4 double play.
They created their misfortune in the sixth, as they failed to score after starting the inning with back-to-back hits. They had two runners in scoring position with one out and a two-run deficit.
"It''s frustrating for them, but it''s doubly frustrating for me," Carlisle said. "Is it anything I''m not doing to get it done? We all have to re-evaluate what we''re doing. But when it comes down to it, players have to make the plays."
For Columbus, Starkville''s late surge only added fuel to the fire of the rivalry, Dale said.
"It''s an amazing feeling," Dale said. "It''s fantastic to have two good wins over a team like that. I''m just glad we all played as a team, and nobody got down when they scored those four runs. We just kept fighting. I think everybody realized we''ve got a game here and they''re not going to lay down. That fired us up even more."
Dale was 2-for-2 with an RBI and a stolen base. McCullough led Columbus with two RBIs.
Nathan Pugh was 2-for-3 for Starkville.