Columbus (GA) scored a big interstate win, beating rival Russell County (AL) 3-2 in our National High School Game of the Week. The storied programs had some of their top prospects on display in a hotly contested game attended by a few dozen college coaches and MLB scouts.
The pitching matchup was a good one as expected with LHP Kyle Carter on the mound for Columbus and Russell County countering with RHP Ray Castillo.
Columbus stuck in the very first inning as JT Phillips singled, the ball getting past Russell County CF Rock Rucker with Phillips going to third. He was promptly driven in on a Spencer Draws single.
Anfernee Grier tied the game in the bottom of the 3rd with a high fly ball to left field that carried all the way over the LF fence.
Columbus retook the lead in the 4th inning as Hunter Swilling doubled in Christian Wiggs. Wiggs pinch ran for Russ Meyer who had reached on a fielding error. Swilling came around and scored to make it 3-1 after four innings.
Russell County pulled to within a run in the bottom of the 6th as Grier hit another solo homerun, but Columbus brought in RHP JT Phillips to close the door in the 7th and preserve the 3-2 win.
Kyle Carter got the win, throwing 6 innings, working 87-90 in the first before settling in at 85-90. Carter wasn’t pinpoint with his control but effectively pitched inside and kept Russell County hitters off balance mixing his fastball and curve.
Castillo matched him almost pitch for pitch, throwing all seven innings, striking out 13. He showed long loose arm action, his fastball at 89-91 in the first, sitting 87-90 the rest of his outing. His curveball was also a very effective pitch and he was able to throw strikes with the pitch.
The most impressive arm was Phillips, who after playing the first six innings at SS, worked 91-93 with his fastball and 73-74 with his curveball during an impressive seventh in which he gave up just one hit.
Phillips is one of the top prospects in the state and has shown strength and bat speed at the plate and soft sure hands at SS. With his frame and arm strength he projects as a very good third baseman at the next level.
Grier has had a very strong junior year and is making his name as one of the top bats in Alabama, his two homeruns Wednesday come shortly after he took Ringgold LHP Matthew Crownover deep for a 425+ foot homerun last Friday. He has a quick bat with lots of torque in his swing. He currently plays SS for Russell County and also projects well at 2B or the OF.
The Warriors were without the services of one of their top players, CF Hunter Webb, as the junior center field was held out most of the game with a knee injury. He singled against Phillips in the 7th.
Columbus continues a very tough stretch of their schedule next week, taking on Parkview Monday and Brookwood Tuesday, both of whom are included in the PG National High School Rankings as well as highly ranked in the new Southeast Regional Rankings which will be unveiled tomorrow.
Russell County already has 14 games under their belt and will continue this weekend with games against Brookstone (GA), Eufaula, and Northview.
Check back tomorrow for new Regional Top 25 rankings in the Southeast, Florida, Pacific and Texahoma and the Northeast Regional Preview.
PG High School will be providing their first live National Game of the Week next week with coverage Monday-Saturday of the Cleats Sports Classic Invitational in Phoenix, AZ.
The schools sit just 16 miles apart on the Georgia/Alabama border and are natural rivals as they have each won multiple state titles and produced MLB players.
This year looks no different as Columbus (GA) and Russell County (AL) again have rosters full of top prospects, making them favorites to win their respective state titles.
Columbus has been a state and national powerhouse ever since Bobby Howard took over the program. They have won 11 state titles since 1984 including three straight from 1994-1996, a feat they look to match in 2012. Their most distinguished alumni is All-Star first baseman Frank Thomas, OF Reggie Abercrombie and OF/2B Garey Ingram are two other Blue Devils who has made it all the way to the big leagues.
The 2012 Blue Devils look to be as strong as ever. They are led by two of the top players in the state, LHP/OF Kyle Carter and 3B/RHP JT Phillips, both of whom were prominently featured in our Southeast Regional Preview. Other top Blue Devils players are IF Spencer Draws, IF Josh Lester, and will be bolstered this year by the transfer of IF/RHP Hunter Swilling who spent last spring playing for Russell County. Columbus is currently ranked at No. 9 in the Perfect Game Top 50 HS Rankings and picked up victories over Wellington (FL) and Pace (FL) last weekend.
Tony Rasmus’ Russell County squad has consistently sent players on to division one programs and into professional baseball. The squad that stands out is the 2005 National Championship team that featured three first rounders, LHP Kasey Kiker, as well as Rasmus’ two sons, OF Colby and RHP Cory.
This year’s squad is star studded with top prospects on both sides of the ball. Their top two arms, RHPs Ray Castillo and Jesse Nelson both sit in the low 90s, and OF Hunter Webb and SS Anfernee Grier are top 2013 prospects at their positions. Other young players to watch are OF BJ Brooks, 2B Trevor Davis and RHP/IF Todd Dial. Russell County will also be aided by a transfer, OF/LHP Rock Rucker who makes the move after playing last year at Redan, GA.
Russell County will face Columbus at 4 pm at Smith’s Station with Castillo on the mound for the Warriors with either Carter or Phillips likely throwing for Columbus. Russell County will follow with a game against host Smith’s Station with Jesse Nelson taking the mound.
Check back tomorrow for a recap and a look at some of the top prospects from this huge interstate match up.
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