Vikings moving onWarren Central advances after slow start

Published 12:20 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

Columbus tried to press its luck with freshman left-hander Hunter Mullis against Warren Central in the deciding game of a Class 6A first-round series Saturday at Viking Field.

Mullis, who helped Columbus even the best-of-three series at a game apiece with a complete game win in Game 2, started the third game and got to the fifth inning with a one-run lead. That’s when the Vikings finally got to the slow-tossing lefty. WC struck for five runs to erase the deficit and went on to claim a 9-3 victory and the series.

The Vikings (15-13) advanced to the second round and will face Division 3-6A champ and last year’s Class 6A runner-up Madison Central next week. Game 1 will be Friday at Madison and the series resumes with Game 2 next Saturday at WC.

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WC coach Josh Abraham was glad to see his team hang in against a frustrating, yet crafty pitcher like Mullis. The freshman threw 11 2/3 innings on the day, and ended up with a win and a loss. Columbus won the first game of the doubleheader, Game 2 of the series, 5-2.

“It was really tough, especially when the ball stays near the strike zone like this kid did,” Abraham said. “It’s not what we’re used to. Especially from a lefty, and a soft lefty at that.”

A change in tactics worked for the Vikings. Bill McRight dropped a drag bunt following a leadoff walk to Hunter Austin in the fifth inning. Devon Bell followed with another bunt hit to load the bases, then Beau Wallace drew a four-pitch walk to tie the game at 2.

“Bill McRight got a drag bunt down and that totally changed the complexion of the game,” Abraham said. “From that point on, we were able to get going and got better at-bats as the game went from there.”

Wallace said time simply caught up to Mullis.

“He was slow,” Wallace said. “I bet his fastball wasn’t much more than 50 miles per hour. It was a good advantage for them because we’re used to seeing 85, 86 and 89 (mph) pitchers. We weren’t able to stay back enough. But by the second game, we had seen him enough.”

Clayton Ashley belted a fly ball to right that was deep enough to score McRight for the go-ahead run at 3-2. Brandon Gates followed with a sharp single to left to plate Bell and Wallace for a 5-2 edge.

That was all for Mullis, who couldn’t finish off an otherwise great day on the mound for the Falcons.

“They hit our No. 1 guy really hard last night, so we felt we needed something different,” Columbus coach Tony Montgomery said of Mullis. “He has that slow curve and it worked for a good while.”

Trace Lee came on in relief was greeted by an RBI double from Carlos Gonzalez to score Gates for a 6-2 lead.

Columbus (13-14) loaded the bases in the sixth, but Chris McCullough’s comebacker to the mound was fielded by WC reliever Blake Jobe.