In level of importance, the game between the Columbus North and Columbus East baseball teams on Saturday afternoon was just an appetizer.
The Bull Dogs came out on top, 3-1, but as we all know, it’s not how you start.
Neither team has won a sectional title since East’s victory 15 years ago (North has gone 19 years without one), so there is a lot to prove.
Even so, anyone who enjoyed a beautiful day at Clifty Park on Saturday could see that Columbus is blessed with a couple of excellent baseball teams and a ton of individual talent.
Could this be the year the sectional streak ends?
While neither school is going to be a favorite heading into the postseason, they both have an excellent shot.
North, 7-1-1, is built on pure offense and has the ability to make some very good pitchers look ordinary.
Consider Saturday’s win over East when the Bull Dogs didn’t really get untracked against East starter William Anderson. They still found ways to put offensive pressure on the Olympians and squeezed out enough runs to get the job done.
And that was on a bad offensive day.
North shortstop Devin Mann, catcher/pitcher Cody Burton and outfielder Canaan Baum all have the power to change a game with one swing. Baum, a sophomore, is an extra-base hitting machine who has been on an RBI tear.
Mann, who is committed to Louisville, hasn’t quite hit his offensive stride yet, but he finds ways to get on base. When he gets dialed in at the plate, look out.
On North’s flip side, coach Ben McDaniel said his team needs to focus on playing defense, which has been somewhat suspect. North has a solid No. 1 pitcher in Collin Lollar, but it really lacks a guy who can simply dominate a good team.
That’s a big deal with it comes playoff time because the Bull Dogs will come up against a dominating pitcher somewhere along the line. If the old adage, “good pitching beats good hitting” remains true, it could be tough for North to claim a title.
Although East lost Saturday’s game, it might actually be built a little better suited for post-season tournament play. Anderson and Peyton Gray are both pitchers who can string a line of zeroes on the board against any kind of hitting.
That being said, East’s offense struggled against the solid pitching of Cathedral in a 4-1 loss on April 8 and then again Saturday when North’s Burton pitched a complete game and simply made the Olympians look bad.
We know East has solid offensive players in Cam Curry, Anderson, Christian Wichman and Connor Roberts, but the Olympians have to get enough consistency from the rest of the lineup as well or good teams are going to pitch around the big bats.
That lack of run production also means that the defense has to play perfect behind those quality starters. Better defense all around on Saturday and the Olympians and Bull Dogs probably are locked up in a 1-1 battle going into extra innings.
But a walk, a hit batter, an error, and all of the sudden the other team has three runs on the board.
Round two between the two teams comes on May 7 at North’s new field. It would be fun to see Gray and Lollar hook up in that one, but it’s a long season so it could end up being a pitch-by-committee kind of game despite the nature of the rivalry.
I’m sure a lot of people in town would love to see the two teams play for a sectional title, but that’s a long ways off. North already has dropped a 7-4 decision to Shelbyville and both Bloomington North and Bloomington South look solid this season. Just getting to the sectional title game is going to take a lot of work.
But whatever lies ahead, you will be sure to see a lot of very good high school baseball in Columbus.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.