The path to winning a state championship required sweeping a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon.
Columbus hoped its ace Anthony Arguelles could get them past the first half of that task.
And for five innings, the plan was working.
In the sixth, everything fell apart.
Columbus’ chances of playing for a third state title and its second in four years were buried after an eight-run meltdown in the sixth inning that led to a 9-4 loss to Jupiter High in a Class 9A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium.
Columbus (22-6) lost a state semifinal for the first time since 1988, and fell short of winning its second-ever state title and what would have been its second in four years.
The Explorers played Jupiter in the semifinal a day late after inclement weather postponed the game originally scheduled for Friday night.
“The game looked like we were in pretty good control for a while, but its baseball,” Columbus coach Joe Weber said. “We couldn’t seem to get an out in that last inning and they squared up some balls too. I’m a little bit at a loss for words right now.”
Battling exhausting heat near 100 degrees on the field, Arguelles limited the Warriors to one run on two hits and a walk through the first five innings.
Arguelles, who had allowed only one run in three regional games, opened the sixth by walking Tanner Nairn, giving up a double to Mitchell Hartigan that cut Columbus’ lead to 4-2 and then issued another walk to Peter Cowley.
This prompted Weber to pull Arguelles after 80 pitches and replace him with Chris Mederos (3-0, 1.25 ERA entering the game).
“Coming down to the end of the game, I know I had to start taking it pitch by pitch and lock in even harder,” Arguelles said. “I just wasn’t able to keep the ball down.”
After a single by Peyton Moon, Jupiter took the lead for good on a bases clearing triple by Michael Robinson.
The hit was sweet redemption for Robinson, who made two mistakes early in the game in the outfield that led to Columbus runs.
Robinson slipped around the left field foul line and couldn’t catch a ball hit by Ariel Garcia that dropped fair for a double in the second inning. Sebastian Serralta then drove in E.J. Doskow and Garcia with a single to give Columbus a 2-0 lead. In the third, Robinson dove for a line drive hit by Chris Bohrer and missed it allowing Joel Gonzalez to score and Bohrer to reach first on a double.
“I was just trying to make up for my mistakes,” Robinson said. “I had never played that badly in the outfield so I wanted to give my team a chance to win. I knew we were going to win the game once I got that hit.”