Miami-Dade High Schools

Collazo's two home runs lift top-ranked Columbus past Ferguson

Columbus' highly-touted pitching staff is a major reason it has earned the nation's No. 1 ranking.

If the Explorers can continue to complement it with the type of hitting they've had the past two weeks, they may achieve their primary goal … winning a state championship.

Led by catcher Nick Collazo's two home runs, Columbus avenged its only defeat of the season so far by beating Ferguson 9-6 at home Friday night.

The Explorers (13-1), ranked No.‚1 in the country by Baseball America, scored four runs in the bottom of the first and third innings to move firmly into first place in District 15-6A. The victory was Columbus' 10th in a row since losing to Ferguson 6-5 on Feb.‚25.

"It's great to see the bats come alive the way they have,'' Columbus coach Joe Weber said. "It's a good victory, but at this time of year, it doesn't mean much. We played them last year five times and it was always competitive. It's good to play a team that can test you the way they do.''

Ferguson used five pitchers, but barely slowed down Columbus' hitting attack. The Explorers have scored nine or more runs in its past four games.

Designated hitter Luis De Quesada continued his torrid hitting, by blasting his eighth home run of the season in the third inning. The mammoth blast cleared the fence to straight-away center field and gave Columbus a 7-3 cushion after Ferguson (6-3) had cut the lead to one run with three runs in the top half of the inning.

The Falcons drew closer again in the fifth, capitalizing on four consecutive walks by Columbus' bullpen.

Later in the inning, Daniel Delacalle hit a sacrifice fly to right that scored Christian Santiesteban. On the throw to the plate, the ball bounced out of Collazo's glove as he tried to tag Santiesteban and trickled away from the plate. This allowed Brandon Hernandez to score, cutting the lead to 9-6.

On the next at-bat, second baseman Manny Alvarez made a diving stop on a ground ball, got up quickly and threw out Joshua Cedeno to end the inning.

Columbus reliever Jesse Pintado picked up his third save, not allowing a run in the sixth or seventh innings.

After Columbus took a 1-0 lead, Collazo hit a three-run home run to right center field off Hernandez to give the Explorers an early 4-0 lead.

Javier Salas (3-0) picked up the victory, giving up only three runs in four innings and striking out four.

"It was a close game, and toward the end, Jesse did a great job,'' Collazo said. "We've been working really hard and just battling, and it paid off.''