Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the top of the sixth, Blue Devil senior catcher Pierce Ressmeyer connected on a two-run blast over the left-field wall to put Columbus on top for good in the 3-1 showdown that pitted the top two teams in Region 6-AAA at Cole Field.
Roach found himself going toe-to-toe with Blue Devil ace Kyle Carter in a pitchers’ duel, where neither team had a hit until the fifth inning.
For the game, the Trojan left-hander worked 6.2 innings, yielding three runs — two earned — on three hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Two of the walks were intentional passes to Carter, while another one was a four-pitch walk to the Blue Devil phenom that might have well as been intentional.
Needless to say, Carrollton coach Craig George had high praise for Roach’s effort on the hill and on the big stage against a team of Columbus’ stature.
“Tanner threw one whale of a ball game. He had a no-hitter going until the kid hits a two-run shot on a curve ball down, which Tanner threw a great pitch. You know, you’ve got to tip your cap to Ressmeyer. He went down, got it and hit it over the fence and gave them a spark. With two outs, he went down and got the ball and gave Columbus a spark. Obviously, he’s hitting in the four-hole for a reason. And we knew that. But we felt like we could get him. But dog gone, he went down and got a good pitch that time,” George said.
Carter, meanwhile, was as nasty as advertised on the bump, surrendering an unearned run in the bottom of the first on the heels of two errors before shutting the Trojans (14-10, 8-3 Region 6-AAA) down the rest of the night. Carrollton got just two more base-runners the rest of the night — a fifth-inning infield single by Taylor Finelyson and a sixth-inning walk to Dallas Dickey.
Carter earned the complete-game win behind seven innings of one-hit ball, yielding just the one walk and unearned run with seven punchouts.
“Carter on the mound just really overpowered us, hitting-wise. He’s a heck of a pitcher and he does that to a lot of teams. But besides the first inning when we had some things happening and we were able to score a run and then the sixth inning when we got our leadoff man on, that’s about it. He pretty much mowed grass,” George said.
In the bottom of the first, Carrollton got its first two runners aboard on back-to-back errors by Columbus, with Dickey reaching on a throwing error by Blue Devil shortstop and University of Missouri signee Josh Lester, while Chris Hicks reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt that Carter mishandled, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
After Carter got a strikeout, Drew Dickey drove in the game’s first run on a groundout to second base. Carter then left Hicks stranded on second by inducing a flyout to left field. That would be the last Trojan to reach scoring position, as Finelyson was stranded at first in the fifth after his two-out single and Dallas Dickey was forced out at second on a double play in the sixth.
George said he knew runs would be hard to come by against Carter, but the Trojan coach said you’ve got to try to do what you can to get runners on and move them over.
“I told our hitters, ‘You can’t be discouraged, because he’s done that to a lot of teams in his four-year career.’ But we’ve got to try to be a little better and put the ball on the ground instead of fly balls and everything else. You know, get a few more bunts. But hindsight is 20/20. We played well. We played just about as good as we could and they played a little bit better,” George said.
Following Ressmeyer’s two-run shot in the sixth, the Blue Devils (21-1, 11-0) got an unearned run in the seventh after Hunter Swilling reached on an error to lead off the inning and back-to-back singles by Ryan Lang and pinch-hitter Will Kilgore loaded the bases for Carter.
With no place to put him, the Trojans had no choice but to pitch to Carter this time, but Roach was able to get a flyout to center that brought home Swilling. Hicks then came in and got J.T. Phillips — another University of Georgia signee, along with Carter — to strike out looking on three pitches to keep it a two-run game.
Carter sent the Trojans down with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to end the game, though.
Carrollton now turns its focus to Friday night’s non-region contest against Rockmart, where it will honor its five seniors — Dallas Dickey, Dylan Ross, Davis Marlar, Reese Richmond and Finelyson.
“We hope a lot of people will come out and say goodbye to our seniors for Senior Night and honor those guys. Then we get ready, we need to get back on a roll here before next Tuesday with Central and get things going in a positive way,” George said.
The Trojans haven’t officially locked up the No. 2 seed from 6-AAA and a first-round state playoff series at home yet, but they’re awfully close. Either one more LaGrange loss — the Grangers host Central today, then travel to Columbus on Friday and Troup next Tuesday — or a Carrollton win against the Lions on Tuesday secures the second-place finish.
With his team playing well right now, George said it needs to keep that momentum heading into the playoffs.
“That’s what we want to do. You know, we’re not going to find many teams better than what’s walking out that gate right there,” George said. “For six innings, we were standing right there toe-to-toe with them. And even in the seventh, a 3-1 lead, it’s just fortunate that they’ve got one of the best pitchers and best players in the state of Georgia,” George said.