Columbus could have given up this past Monday, called it a week and rested for the playoffs.
“That’s not us,” pitcher Alain Santana said. “We’re not going to let teams we know we’re good enough to beat eliminate us and we wanted to win a championship.”
After falling behind by five runs in a quarterfinal GMAC tournament game Monday, the Explorers rallied for a dramatic win against Goleman.
Three days and two more dominant performances later, Columbus became GMAC champions.
Led by Santana, a senior who threw a one-hitter, the Explorers shut out host Killian 4-0 Thursday to win their second GMAC title in the past three seasons. Columbus (20-5) has advanced to the finals the past four years losing last year and in 2012 to Killian (18-7).
“This was a little payback,” Columbus senior third baseman Jackie Urbaez said. “This is nice to win, but we have to focus on what’s ahead.”
Santana, a lefty, finished with only three strikeouts, but kept the Cougars hitting harmless fly balls and a lot of ground balls with good control on the mound.
Sebastian Gonzalez’s single up the middle in the bottom of the fifth was Killian’s only hit. Columbus already had a 4-0 lead at the time and Santana preserved the shutout by getting a couple of ground outs, stranding Gonzalez at third.
Columbus junior second baseman Mike Navarette broke a scoreless tie with runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the fourth when he lined a 0-2 pitch from Killian starter Vladimir Nunez into center for a 2-0 lead.
Nunez exited the game after walking the first two batters in the fifth. Sophomore reliever Andrew Schreiber walked another batter to load the bases with no outs. Schreiber then hit Hernen Sardinas with a pitch forcing in a third run. Three batters later, another walk forced in the fourth run.
Both Columbus and Killian turn their respective focus to next week’s district playoffs.
Columbus, the top seed in District 15-8A, plays the Ferguson-Southwest winner in a semifinal Tuesday at Braddock. The Explorers went 2-0 against both teams. A victory would advance Columbus to the district final against either Braddock or Coral Gables and clinch an automatic berth in the regional quarterfinals.
Killian, the top seed in District 16-8A, takes on defending Class 8A state champion South Dade Monday at 3:30 p.m. in a semifinal at Coral Reef. The winner would also clinch a regional berth and play either Palmetto or Varela in the district final.
“I felt like this was my championship today,” Santana said. “They gave me the opportunity to win this game and I wanted it from the start. This team is bonding great right now.”
▪ Columbus 4, Killian 0
Col: 000-220-0 -- -- 4-6-1
Kil: 000-000-0 -- -- 0-1-1
WP: Alain Santana (1-1). LP: Vladimir Nunez (4-2).