Columbia wins district opener

On Friday night at Tiny Talbot Field, the Gainesville and Columbia (Lake City) baseball game came down to a final play.

And in the end, it was the visiting Tigers who made one more play in a 7-6 win in the Class 5A-District 2 opener for both teams.

“It’s Gainesville-Columbia,” said Gainesville coach Chris Malphurs. “It’s a big rivalry between our schools, in any sport, and baseball has provided a lot of entertainment over the last six-plus years that we’ve been playing those guys. I think people like to come out and watch these guys play.”

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, and the tying run at second base, Gainesville’s Josh Morrison singled to center field.

Tyler Guarino, who reached on an error at first base to start the inning, rounded third and headed for home. However, Tigers’ center fielder Matt Dumas made a perfect throw home and catcher Chandler Howard tagged out Guarino to end the game.

Columbia's Truitt Todd and catcher Chandler Howard chat at mound

“Honestly, I was yelling at him at first because I didn’t want the winning run to get to second and I looked up, he did the right thing,” said first-year Columbia coach Chris Howard. “That’s what good players do. They come through under pressure. That’s what we needed at the time.”

It was a close play at the plate, and it took an accurate throw from center to end it.

“You’ve got to take a chance there and try to tie the game,” Malphurs said. “Josh did a good job again. He took a first-pitch fastball that was a strike and was able to put something through there with two strikes so, just hats off to those guys. They played a good game, and this was just a good high school baseball game.”

It was Columbia’s first win, and Howard’s first as head coach of the Tigers (1-1).

“It was a close one and we did everything wrong we possibly could do but we still walked out with the win somehow,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of pressure on us. Everybody thinks we’re going to go far this year, we’re still working some kinks out, and I think this kind of gets the monkey off our back.”

GHS (1-2) kept battling all night.

The Hurricanes trailed 2-0 after a half inning before rallying to tie it in the bottom of the 3rd inning.

Junior Colton Kelly (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBI) doubled in courtesy runner Bennett Bruggeman. He also had an RBI single in the sixth as the Hurricanes rallied from a 7-2 deficit to make it a one run game heading into the final inning.

“Through three games he’s all over the place,” Malphurs said. “He’s hit two bombs already. That’s why we moved him up to the lead off spot. He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s got a lot of confidence right now. He’s seeing the ball really well right now.”

Gainesville's Colton Kelly safe on third base

Senior Truitt Todd got the win on the mound for Columbia, but he helped himself with a 3-run bomb to center field, while gave the Tigers the 5-run lead in the fifth.

“I said before the year, Truitt Todd is going to have a big year,” Howard emphasized. “He’s a tough individual to coach but he’s a lot of fun to coach as well. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s going to have a great year for us.”

The Tigers will host Suwannee (Live Oak) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, while Gainesville will travel to Santa Fe (Alachua) on Thursday for a 6:30 p.m. start.

Guarino took the loss on the mound for the Hurricanes, who will host the Raiders next Friday.

“We’ve got to find a way to start better,” said Malphurs, who noted that his team trailed by four runs in the first inning on Tuesday night in a 6-3 loss to P.K. Yonge. “That’s kind of what we’re harping on is, ‘hey, we’ve got to find a way to start games better.’ We’ve got Santa Fe next week so there’s no games off.”

In other action, Santa Fe defeated Keystone Heights, 3-1, in Alachua.

The Raiders scored twice in the bottom of the second inning, scoring the first run of the game on a lead off walk, a single by Devan Mitchum, and a passed ball.

Connor Brown’s fielder choice brought home the eventual game-winning run to make it 2-0.

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