“It was one of our goals,” said Floyd Central manager Casey LaDuke. “We worked hard to get here, and I think everyone chipped in in this game. We have four more games before sectional, we’ll just look to continue to get better. Play well, and carry momentum.”
The Olympians (11-8) put immediate pressure on the Highlanders (20-3) with three runs in the first inning. They hit Floyd Central starter Kyle Beach hard right out of the gate with four straight base hits, including two doubles, before Beach could find his rhythm and settle down. He escaped further damage when Fulton, playing catcher, picked off Connor Roberts at second base.
The Highlanders responded immediately off Columbus East ace Cam Curry. Felton took one for the team, one of three hit batsmen in the inning, and the Highlanders pieced together a long inning of their own. Austin Newell bunt singled, Colton Kimm singled to center, and Fulton scored on Brandon Smith’s sacrifice fly to right. Beach hit a sac fly to left scoring Newell, and then Floyd Central took a 4-3 lead on Evan Jewell’s two-run double to right center later in the inning.
Both starters settled down at that point and pitched scoreless frames in the second and third, although both escaped jams in the third to do so.
Beach stopped the Olympians once more in the fourth, but the Highlanders were able to pad the lead when Fulton, who had picked Nick Andrie off second base in the top of the inning, hit a shot directly over the Columbus East sign in left field for a 5-3 advantage.
Columbus East got the run back in the top of the fifth. Roberts walked and Kyle Weiss doubled before Roberts scored on a sacrifice fly by Brock Greiwe.
In the bottom of the fifth the Highlanders were able to create some separation. Philip Archer, Charlie Loveall and Aiden Cora all singled, and all three scored for an 8-4 lead. The second of those came on a warning track sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Fulton, just two feet from his second homer of the game.
The visitors had one last gasp in the sixth. Will Anderson’s double scored one and Weiss plated another with a sacrifice fly to cut it to 8-6.
The Highlanders threatened to blow it open in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Smith led off with a walk and Beach was hit by a pitch. But Columbus East escaped from the jam with a bunt attempt popout and then two strikeouts to strand both runners.
Fulton came in and immediately retired the first two batters on his own, throwing both out at first. He gave up one single in the ninth that bounced off his glove, but was able to end the game by striking out Sam Claycamp for the win and the championship.
Columbus East300 012 0 – 6 12 3
Floyd Central 400 130 x – 8 11 2
WP – Kyle Beach. LP – Cam Curry. HR – Fulton.