North baseball avoids letdown, routs Woodmen

Entering Saturday morning’s home baseball contest, Columbus North was ripe for that perfectly-placed “letdown” game against Greenwood.

The Bull Dogs were fresh off big road wins at crosstown rival Columbus East and just a few hours earlier at highly-ranked Floyd Central and were staring at upcoming key road games against sectional and conference opponents.

Unfortunately for the Woodmen, North refused to accept that idea and rolled to its 17th consecutive victory of the season after posting a 17-2 rout.

Greenwood (11-10) managed to stay within striking distance through the first three innings, but could not hold back the Class 4A No. 4 Bull Dogs (20-1) once their offense got rolling.

“This game was definitely set up to where it could have been a letdown,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “But we talked as a team about that exact scenario, and the guys were ready.”

Already leading 5-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Dogs exploded for another dozen runs on 11 hits, including a trio of homers. North finished with a total of 18 hits, with eight of those going for extra bases.

Senior Devin Mann was one of six Bull Dogs to register multiple hits, and one of four to score three times. The Louisville-bound shortstop also came up big with runners in scoring position as he registered eight RBIs.

After his sacrifice fly plated Canaan Baum with the game’s first run in North’s two-run first, Mann blistered a bases-loaded triple his first official at-bat in the fourth to push the score to 8-1.

Mann returned later in the same inning facing the same scenario, this time ripping a grand slam over the left-center field fence.

The blast was the second round-tripper of the inning as junior Collin Lollar drilled a two-run shot after Mann hit his triple. Lollar, who also ripped a pair of doubles, finished with four RBIs, while senior Evan Finke punched a solo homer immediately following Mann’s grand slam.

Finke joined Lollar with a trio of hits for the game, as did Baum, who went 2 for 2 in the fourth-inning slugfest, along with Mann, Lollar and freshman Tyler Finke. Baum, Evan Finke and Brice McDaniel were the other three Bull Dogs to score three times.

Not to get lost in all of the offensive fireworks was the steady pitching performance from Jon Cox, who improved his individual record to 6-0.

The senior right-hander scattered eight hits, while striking out three Greenwood batters and walking another three. Four of those eight hits came in the second, where the Woodmen had the potential to produce a big inning.

With one out, Greenwood reeled off four straight hits, including a double by Bryce Robbins, who scored on a deep single by Damon Maynard. The Woodmen’s Brayton Buchanan also motored home on Maynard’s hit, but was tagged out at home plate after Baum launched an on-target cannon throw from center field.

Cox then induced Reid Werner into an inning-ending pop-out and cruised throughout the remainder of the game until surrendering another solo run in the top of the fifth.

“I was throwing a lot of fastballs early and Greenwood was hitting them,” Cox said. “I started mixing up my pitches later, and things came together.”

Cox said he felt a little different early in the game with his team holding just a 2-1 lead, but never lost his focus.

“My teammates always have my back on offense and defense,” he said.