Neither team scored in the first four innings and the Cartersville 11/12 All Stars stayed with Columbus through five innings, trailing 3-2 at that point.
Then the runs fell like a summer storm and three Cartersville pitchers were unable to contain Columbus, whose batters seemed just as hot as the sweltering heat in which the game was played. Weather officials said the heat index was in the mid 90s at the time.
Up until that point, it was an evenly matched game.
“I’m very proud of our team,” head coach Richard Daniel said. “We took a very good team all the way to the wire in the sixth inning. In the sixth inning, things kind of got away from us. If it hadn’t gotten away from us, in the bottom of the sixth we hit that home run and it’s tied 3 to 3.”
Neither team scored early on, but Cartersville came close a couple of times.
In the bottom of the second, Brycen Jones doubled and advanced to third with one out, but Cartersville couldn’t get him the rest of the way home before the inning’s final two outs were used up.
In the top of the third, Columbus struck back by loading the bases, helped along by two walks sandwiched around a fielder’s choice and a single.
Tyler Pace then hit a bouncer that was tamed by Tate Mathis, who stepped on first for the inning’s final out that stranded three runners.
Both teams used the minimum number of batters in the bottom of the second and top of the third.
Cartersville again got a runner on third [Spencer Dewey] in the bottom of the fourth inning with one out, but again their batters could not advance their teammate.
It looked like Columbus was due another paltry showing at the plate in the bottom of the fifth, as it opened with two players making outs. But Alex Royal doubled to left as the Columbus scoring machine started showing life. A double by Jackson Mellenberg sent Royal home and the South Georgians broke into the scoring column. A wild pitch sent Mellenberg to third and he and Tyler Rebber — who got on courtesy of a base on balls — scored when Tyler Pace hit a two-run RBI double.
Cartersville came back in the bottom of the frame, however, when Jake Hacker reached on an error, took second on a passed ball and then scored on a two-run homer by Preston Martin, closing to 3-2.
Columbus blew the doors off the game in the top of the sixth, however, as it sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs.
Cartersville responded with a solo homer by Austin Davis in the bottom of the inning.
Daniel singled out Campbell’s performance on the mound, giving up just three runs in the first five innings to a very good Columbus team.
“Bailey pitched a great game and he held them down really well,” the coach said. “He just ran out of pitches and we had to get another pitcher in there.
“Bailey looked every bit as good as their pitchers. He kept his pitch count down really well. Our defense early in the game really helped him out.”
He said the team played a good game overall except for the final inning.
“We started out strong and played five excellent innings,” he said. “We just didn’t finish strong.”
Daniel said the loss puts pressure on his team to do well the rest of the tournament, but he said it is capable of doing so.
“I think we’ve got a real good shot in the tournament. [This loss] doesn’t kill us. It does put a little more pressure on us. We don’t need to drop anymore. But you can still win it with two losses. Our plan is to not lose anymore, to win the next three games but we’ll be playing good teams. This is the state tournament and everybody is a good team. I think we’ve got one of the better teams out here if we play our game.”
He said Cartersville needs to finish first or second in its pool to advance.
Cartersville returns to the Atco fields Monday, when it plays at 7:30 p.m. at Joe Frank Harris Field against East Marietta; Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Rudy York Field against Masters City; and Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Joe Frank Harris Field against Walton County.