Two of the top baseball teams in the area went head-to-head on Tuesday night at Buchholz (Gainesville).
One inning made the difference in a 6-4 win for visiting Columbia (Lake City).
“Thank God, because we didn’t get anything after that,” said Columbia coach Chris Howard. “We just held on and pulled the win out.”
The Tigers, who are ranked fourth in the state in Class 5A by MaxPreps, sent nine batters to the plate in the top of the third inning and scored five runs for an early 6-0 lead. They also scored a run in the first on an RBI groundout by Brayden Thomas.
“Give them credit, they came out and played better baseball than us and got on us from the get-go,” said Buchholz coach Ron Brooks.
Center fielder Matt Dumas led off the Columbia third with a walk. One out later, FSU commit Hayden Gustavson was hit by freshman starter Wyatt Clarke.
Florida State College at Jacksonville commit Truitt Todd and Thomas had back-to-back RBI singles to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Ty Jackson reached on a throwing error by first baseman Anthony Wilkie, scoring Thomas for a 4-0 lead.
Then, with two outs, senior Ty Floyd doubled in two runs off of Buchholz reliever Scott Jones.
Columbia had three of their four total hits in the inning.
“We got some timely hits, and we preach that,” Howard said. “You’re not always going to have 10 hits in a game. If you get some guys on base, somebody needs to get him in.”
Buchholz (13-6) didn’t fold and started to chip away.
Cedaris Smith singled in a run in the fourth to put the Bobcats on the scoreboard.
An error by Todd at shortstop, one of three Columbia errors, plated a run in the fifth to make it 6-2.
Nick Taylor added an RBI groundout in the sixth inning, and UCF commit Noah Hayse homered in the bottom of the seventh.
However, reliever Brent Howard struck out two of the next three batters to end the threat.
Ty Robertson, a Hillsborough Community College signee, kept Buchholz in the game by pitching four innings of scoreless ball, including seven strikeouts.
He retired eight in a row spanning the fourth through seventh innings.
“Credit Ty Robertson, he came in threw really well for us and gave us a chance to get back in the game,” Brooks said. “It was a big senior moment for him.”
Buchholz scored four runs on three hits over the final four innings.
“I was encouraged because last week against Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) it was kind of the same situation, we got down 6-0 and I felt like we rolled over,” Brooks said. “But tonight there was a lot more fight and I think that the last several innings is something to build on. I don’t like losing a baseball game but for a young club to come back and fight and battle, I was happy with that.”
Columbia, which bounced back from a 7-6 loss at Union County (Lake Butler) on Friday, improved to 14-4.
“If you had told me that before the season, I would have been very happy,” said Howard, who is in his first season with the Tigers. “I wish we could do those four we lost again. We’re in a good spot. We’ve just got to keep maintaining and let it figure itself out.”
Columbia will host Chiles (Tallahassee) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, while Buchholz will host Bishop Verot (Fort Myers) at 7 p.m. on Thursday.