Columbus, Georgia’s reigning Class AAA champion, is ranked in several national polls and likely to move up next week after beating AAAAA champ Parkview 7-6 on Monday.
Columbus (7-0, ranked No. 4 by ESPN Rise) is led by two Georgia signees in pitcher/outfielder Kyle Carter and pitcher/shortstop J.T. Phillips. Both are likely to be drafted in June. Middle infielder Josh Lester has signed with Missouri, and third baseman Spencer Draws is headed to Air Force.
Carter, Phillips, Lester and left fielder Ryan Lang played on the Columbus Little League World Series champions of 2006.
‘’I’d rather be ranked than not, but these [early] rankings are usually just publicity from the previous year,’’ said Columbus coach Bobby Howard, whose 2004 finished No. 2 in USA Today. ‘’I don’t know if it’s from a team standpoint or two or three [nationally known] individuals that we have. But we haven’t done a whole lot [this season] to merit that yet.’’
Against Parkview, Carter entered in the seventh inning to close a 7-4 lead but gave up two runs and had a runner at third with no outs. He got a strikeout, a lineout and fly out to end the game.
Ironically, Carter and Phillips didn’t get a hit in the game for the only time this season. But Howard, who has won nine state titles in a coaching career that began in 1975, says it’s fair to rank the two four-year starters and two-time state champions with the best that he’s coached, including future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.
‘’There’s no doubt about it,’’ Howard said. “I don’t like to compare players, but from a high school standpoint, we’ve had only six or seven who have started as freshmen, and that’s 30-something years. I’ve never had anyone hit 12 home runs [as Carter did] as a freshman. He hit three in a state championship game.’’
Carter is rated a little higher by most as a pro prospect, although Howard says some scouts Phillips better because he’s taller. Phillips is 6-2, 195, while Carter is 6-0, 195.
Columbus plays at home Friday against another AAAAA power in Brookwood. Columbus, Brookwood and Parkview are playing at the end of this month in Cary, N.C., at the USA National High School Invitational, a first-year event that hopes to attract the top 16 teams in the country each season.