FLOYDS KNOBS — After the top half of the first, it looked like Columbus East might cruise to back-to-back Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament championships.
The first five Olympian batters of the game reached base, and East found itself with a three-run lead at Floyd Central, with nobody out and runners at second and third.
But after a couple mistakes on the basepaths, the Olympians would have to settle for three, and that came back to haunt them in an 8-6 loss.
“We would have scored more in that first inning, but we killed ourselves a couple times there,” East coach Jonathan Gratz said. “It’s hard to look back at that. That’s baseball.”
But the mistakes would prove costly immediately. The Highlanders, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, came back with four of their own in the bottom of the first to take a 4-3 lead that they would not give up.
“We got settled with the lead,” East senior Will Anderson said. “We got that first inning, and we were just OK with it. We can’t do that against a team like this. You can’t settle with what you have. You have to keep pushing the whole game. We need to do a better job of that, and we will.”
The 4-3 Floyd Central lead would stay put until the fourth, when Highlanders catcher Trey Fulton hit a solo home run. The Olympians (11-8) then got the run back in the top of the fifth when Kyle Weiss doubled home Connor Roberts.
East appeared to be gaining some momentum, but again Floyd Central took it away. The Highlanders scored three in the bottom of the fifth to take an 8-4 lead.
But East would refuse to throw in the towel once again. After back-to-back singles by Sam Claycamp and Nick Andrie, Anderson hustled in to second for his second double of the game on a softly-hit ball to the gap, scoring Claycamp.
“I was really looking first pitch fastball, not getting behind in the count, just swinging at anything they gave me and seeing what happened,” Anderson said. “I knew we had to come out and not be passive.”
Weiss drove in Andrie on a sacrifice fly later in the inning, but that was the extent of the Olympian runs.
“We lost the aggression we had early,” Gratz said. “We were very aggressive at the plate in that first inning, but we kind of lost that. We need to keep that aggression at the plate throughout the game.”
Garrett Thrasher pitched the home half of the sixth for East, finishing the pitching job Cam Curry and Nick Beamish started. Thrasher pitched well after a shaky start, retiring three in a row after walking the leadoff man and hitting the second batter.
“Garrett’s done a great job for us out of the bullpen,” Gratz said. “He’s reliable to come in and he gets guys out. He’s not going to blow by anyone, but he knows that, and it helps him that he understands that.”
The Olympians looked ready to hit in the seventh, down two, but their only success was a Curry single against Highlander star Fulton, who came in for the save.
After coming up just short of their second straight HHC title, East’s focus now begins to turn toward the postseason.
“Hopefully, we can build off this and learn from our mistakes and get it cleaned up for sectional,” Gratz said.
“It hurts,” Anderson said. “We made a few dumb mistakes on the bases. That’s not us. I know we’ll fix that in the future, and it won’t happen again. I know it’s going to affect our practices from here on out. They’re going to be full out, 110 percent for the rest of the season. It makes us hungrier for sectional. We want sectional more than anything. We’re definitely going to come out for the rest of the season and be a better team because of it.”