In a battle between Midstate power pitchers, Riverdale ace Trevor Sutton won the war Monday night.
Sutton struck out 10 and edged Columbia and Vanderbilt signee Hayden Stone 2-1 at Jones Field in the Region 4-AAA semifinals. The win ended Columbia’s season.
Riverdale (25-11) will host Tullahoma at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Region 4-AAA championship. Tullahoma defeated Oakland 4-2 in its region semifinal.
“I knew going in it was going to be a close game,” said Sutton, a Memphis signee. “I knew I had to bring my best stuff.”
It will be a rematch of Riverdale’s 10-inning win over Tullahoma in the 2012 region final. Both Riverdale and Tullahoma clinched Class AAA sectional berths with wins on Monday.
“The last three years, this has been a tough game for us,” said Sutton (8-1). “But we stuck it out. It’s the same thing. We just had someone come through with a clutch hit.”
That person was senior Trevin Ayers against the Lions (23-10). Ayers singled in pinch runner Jordan McNeal from third base to cap the win.
“I hadn’t gotten a hit against him all night,” Ayers said. “I think in three years facing him I don’t think I’d ever gotten a hit off of him. It was good to get that for our team.
“I was just in the box praying to help my team out, and win the game for my team.”
McNeal was running for McCullough, who reached on an error with one out. McNeal advanced to second on a wild pitch. D.J. Watkins, who drove in the Warriors’ only other run, drew a walk to put runners at first and second.
McNeal then stole third to get in position to score the final run.
Stone threw just 82 pitches — 61 for strikes — in eight innings. He struck out six and walked two. He gave up three hits. Both runs he gave up were unearned. Sutton threw 113 — 77 for strikes.
Riverdale’s extra-inning game was its seventh of the season. It touts a 5-2 record in such games.
“I don’t know if it helps, but I think we’re comfortable going extra innings,” Riverdale coach Barry Messer said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh no, we haven’t done it all year.’
“We see eight, nine roll up on the board, it’s something we’ve done before. I think it is comfortable.”
It marked the third straight year that Riverdale has battled Stone (7-2) in the Region 4-AAA semifinals. Stone beat Riverdale 1-0 in 2011. The Warriors edged Columbia 1-0 in 2012 with current Georgia Tech freshman Jonathan King getting the win.
Columbia took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Matthew Markham tagged a Sutton pitch over the fence for a solo home run. But Riverdale countered with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Riley Walters singled and was replaced by McNeal as a courtesy runner. McNeal later scored on Watkins’ single.
Riverdale 2, Columbia 1
Columbia 000 010 00 — 1 4 2
Riverdale 000 010 01 — 2 3 1
Stone and Bair. Sutton and Walters. WP: Sutton (8-1). LP: Stone (7-2). HR: Markham.