Third time’s the charm.
Twice in the first three innings of the Columbus Cornerstone Insurance Groups Seniors’ opener of a doubleheader Wednesday against Omaha North at Pawnee Park Field, the home club found itself with the bases loaded only to come up empty on both occasions.
Enter Brent Beard.
With his squad trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, the Columbus catcher stepped into the batter’s box with the bases full once again and delivered a clutch single to right, which drove home a pair of runs and tied the game.
But, that was only the beginning.
Columbus scored five more runs in the bottom of the sixth to blow open a close game in an eventual 7-2 victory.
Beard had flied out to right in his first at-bat and wasn’t happy about it, said Columbus head coach Cody Schilling.
“Brent was a bit frustrated,” he said. “So, I just told him to go up there looking for something good to hit – he likes to hit middle-right side, anyway.”
Which is exactly where Beard sent a fastball from North starter Logan Dirgo, who had held the Columbus bats in check to that point, tossing four scoreless innings.
Trevor Kaslon had begun the fifth inning by beating out an infield single after falling behind 0-2 in the count, then advancing to second on a wild pitch.
After a Logan Mueller strikeout, Jared Nitz drew a walk, which brought Jacob Morse to the plate with runners on first and second and one out.
Morse singled to load the bases for Beard, who did the rest.
But, at 2-2, the outcome was still in the balance as Morse returned to the mound for the top of the sixth.
After a North runner reached second, Morse got Blake Hodges to ground sharply to Mueller at third, who scooped up the ball, expertly looked the runner back to second, then gunned out the runner at first.
Finally, Morse got the final out of the inning without any damage having been done.
In the bottom of the sixth, the floodgates opened for the Columbus offense as an additional five runs poured across the plate, with Beard once again in the middle of the storm.
Derek Smejkal led off with a drive to the gap, but slipped and fell rounding first and was forced to retreat for a single.
However, he reached second anyway on a wild pitch moments later with Alex Uhlig at the plate.
Uhlig drew a base-on-balls, which brought Cole Wilcox to the dish, who laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move both runners up a station. Kaslon then hit a booming sacrifice fly to center to plate Smejkal, giving the Seniors their first lead of the game at 3-2.
Mueller then punched an RBI single to right, making it 4-2.
Up next was Nitz, who grounded one up the middle only for the ball to take a bad hop and elude the shortstop, bringing Morse to the plate with men at the corners.
Morse proceeded to bang out an RBI single, marking the fourth consecutive Columbus batter who had jumped on a first-pitch fastball, which pleased Schilling.
“I told them they should be hunting fastballs when they’re ahead in the count,” he said. “Force pitchers to throw strikes in those situations instead of letting them dictate to you.”
Beard certainly heeded Schilling’s advice and finished off the scoring with a double to drive in the final two runs of the game.
Morse then closed out a complete-game victory by retiring the side in order in the top of the seventh.
“Jacob pitched really well for us and kept us in the game until our offense came around,” Schilling said. “He just had a good all-around game.”
In addition to Beard’s two hits and four RBIs on the game, Kaslon, Morse, Uhlig and Smejkal each posted a pair of hits in leading a 10-hit attack.
Columbus (14-19) played the second game of the doubleheader against Omaha North late on Wednesday (results weren't available at press time), then today will host Omaha Central in another doubleheader at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
Scott Akanewich is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.