Columbia Tigers Send St. Augustine Yellow Jackets Packing In Regional Quarterfinals

For the first time since 2016, the Columbia Tigers have won a Regionals playoff game. On Tuesday night, the Tigers defeated the St. Augustine Yellow Jackets 4-0 to advance to the Class 1A Regional Semifinals. Having already faced the Yellow Jackets twice this season, the Tigers took care of business with ease. While Columbia entered Tuesday’s game as heavy favorites, the win still served as a big momentum boost for the soaring Tigers.

Truitt Todd dominated on the mound throughout the evening for Columbia. In 6 2/3 innings pitched, Todd allowed only one hit, four walks and no runs. He also threw nine strikeouts on the day. Todd also put in some solid work in the batter’s box, chipping in with a hit and an RBI on offense. Phillip Maddox briefly took the mound in the seventh inning to secure the final out for the Tigers.

Brent Howard and Brayden Thomas both played significant roles in Columbia’s win as well. Howard picked up two hits, two runs scored and two stolen bases during Tuesday’s victory. Thomas drove in two runs during the first inning to give Columbia an early lead. He also secured a clutch out for the Tigers in the sixth inning to keep the Yellow Jackets off the board.

Kicking The Game Off With Some Early Action

The Tigers nearly got into some trouble almost immediately after the first pitch. Despite picking up two outs early in the first inning, Columbia allowed back-to-back batters to reach the bases on a pair of walks. With Todd and the Tigers defense already facing a situation with runners in scoring position, they knew they needed to pull it together. And that they did. Todd swiftly sat down the subsequent batter on strikes.

Matt Dumas slides his way into third base during the first inning.

Columbia Head Coach Chris Howard affirmed his confidence in Todd in his post-game remarks. In spite of some ups and downs in the past couple of weeks, Todd has solidified himself as one of the team’s go-to pitchers.

“He’s our guy right now. We’re going to ride him until we die,” Coach Howard said. “He doesn’t [really start] to pitch until he gets some pressure on him.”

Having taken care of business on defense, the Tigers offense now had an opportunity to strike. St. Augustine walked Matt Dumas in Columbia’s first at-bat of the inning. Right after that, Brent Howard knocked in a single. Howard and Dumas went on to steal second and third base, respectively, to give the Tigers two runners in scoring position.

However, Columbia initially could not capitalize on this momentum. The team’s following two batters each failed to drive in either runner, putting two outs on the board for the Tigers. With Columbia’s backs now against the wall, Thomas entered the batter’s box.

“I didn’t try to do too much on the baseball,” Thomas said. “I just tried to put it in play.”

Thomas proceeded to crack the ball right through the center field gap on a line drive. Dumas and Howard sprinted around the bases and scored with ease. While the Yellow Jackets held Thomas up at first, he had already done his job. The Tigers had already hopped out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first inning.

Other Standout Moments On Offensive

Following the first inning, Columbia’s offensive output quieted down a bit. However, the team did manage to pick up another two runs on the night. In the third inning, Todd blasted a ball into right field that landed him on first base. Brent Howard, who had made it to third base earlier in the inning, scored as a result of the play.

Three innings later, the Tigers scored on a wild pitch from St. Augustine. However, while the team’s offense put up some solid numbers on the scoreboard, it proved to be their defense that won them the game.

Defense Wins Championships (And Playoff Games)

The Yellow Jackets played an aggressive game with their baserunning throughout Tuesday’s game. The team made multiple attempts to catch the Tigers off guard on the basepaths. On some occasions, they succeeded. But Columbia eventually picked up on this.

After a Yellow Jacket managed to steal third base on a close call in the fourth inning, St. Augustine attempted to trick Todd and the Columbia infield with a double steal attempt. While a Yellow Jacket runner on first base attempted to steal second, St. Augustine’s man on third attempted to steal home. However, the Tigers managed to catch both runners stealing on a double play. The Yellow Jackets went from having runners on first and third with one out to another empty-handed inning.

However, Columbia’s toughest test defensively came in the fifth inning. Despite picking up two outs, the Tigers allowed St. Augustine to load the bases after giving up multiple walks. Todd and the Tigers’ defense had an extremely slim margin for error at this point. The Yellow Jackets only needed one big hit to possibly tie things up. However, Todd kept his composure and stuck to what had been working for him all game long.

“[I] just had to keep being aggressive and keep having faith in [my] stuff,” Todd said. “Just had to keep attacking, going at hitters and keeping them off balance.”

With all eyes glued on Todd and St. Augustine’s batter, the latter hit a ground ball over to Brayden Thomas. Despite nearly slipping on the scoop-up, Thomas made a long throw over to first base to secure out number three. Columbia had made it out of the inning alive.

Clinching The Win And Moving On

After averting that fifth-inning crisis, the Tigers had crushed any glimmers of momentum for the Yellow Jackets. With a somewhat comfortable lead in the final two innings, Columbia took care of business with ease to close the game out. Todd stepped off the mound with just one out remaining for the Tigers. Despite St. Augustine snagging their second hit of the game in the seventh inning, a ground out in the final at-bat secured the win for Columbia.

The Tigers hope to continue their historic season in their upcoming Regional Semifinals matchup. Columbia will play host to the Mosley Dolphins this Thursday at 7 PM.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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