When Columbia High and Ridgefield meet on the baseball field, no lead is safe.
That was true in two of the season's first three meetings and it was so April 23 when the Bruins entertained the Spudders at Hecomovich Field for a pivotal Trico League matchup between co-first-place teams.
Ridgefield -- which erased a 6-1 deficit with six runs in the top of the fourth inning and took a 12-8 lead into the last of the seventh -- struggled to put CHS away but eventually prevailed 12-11 to take sole possession of the league lead.
"Every game we've played those guys, one of us has done something to give the game away," Bruins Coach Larry McCutcheon lamented. "The only time something went right for us was the first time we played them up here, when we scored four in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the win."
Since then the Bruins have dropped three straight to the Spudders, including the April 23 loss in which they squandered a five-run lead.
Ridgefield rallied for six runs on five hits and three walks in the top of the fourth to take its first lead of the game at 7-6. Three of the runs scored after two were out.
Columbia tied the score twice after that but fell behind for good when the Spudders' Rob Schaefer sent a Chris Peck offering over the right-field fence for a 9-8 advantage.
Ridgefield tacked on three runs in the top of the seventh and turned to its closer, Nick Patee, to protect a four-run lead.
However, with two away, CHS loaded the bases for Peck, who singled to score Adam Hogberg and Bryan Charters. Brandon Verley advanced to home when the throw from short right field bounded out of play.
Dayne Combelic and Kenny Mace followed with two disciplined at-bats, working Patee for bases on balls to reload the bases for Matthew Carlock.
Carlock flied out to left field, however, to end the game.
The Bruins finished the game with 15 hits, three each by Peck (double, 4 RBIs) and Verley (double, 3 RBIs, 3 runs).
Hayden Weiler (double, 2 RBIs), Charters (triple, 2 runs) and Mace each had two hits.
Paul Courtney had one hit and scored two runs, and Carlock doubled in a run.
"With 15 hits and 11 runs, there's no way we should've lost that game," McCutcheon said. "But when you play Ridgefield, you can't afford to let down. They keep coming after you and make you play. They're not going to give in to you, no matter how many runs you're ahead."
Ridgefield connected for 10 hits; five of those came in the fourth inning off CHS starter Eric Crause and reliever Jon Bryan.
And though the hits hurt, it was the walks that ended up causing the most damage. CHS pitchers issued six bases on balls and hit two batters to give Ridgefield eight extra base-runners.
"That's just something we haven't done a lot of this year," McCutcheon said about the walks. "Up until this game, we'd been averaging about two gimmes per game. Those free bases in that one bad inning are what beat us."
Columbia High 11, at Castle Rock 1 --
Brandon Verley slugged his eighth home run and three CHS pitchers combined on a three-hitter as the Bruins defeated the Rockets Monday in six innings.
Verley went 3 for 4 with a double and three runs batted in to head up an 11-hit CHS attack.
Hayden Weiler also had three hits and drove in two runs. Chris Peck was 2 for 2 with two RBIs. Adam Hogberg added a two-run single.
Eric Crause got the win, working the first three innings. He struck out four, including the side in the second, walked two and allowed one unearned run.
At Columbia High 7, Goldendale 0 --
Jon Bryan, Matthew Carlock and Brandon Verley combined for nine strikeouts in the four-hit shutout of the Timberwolves April 16.
Bryan went three innings to earn his second victory.