COLUMBUS -- One of the most memorable baseball seasons in the history of Thomson High School ended Tuesday, as the Bulldogs were upended 8-4 in the rubber game of a three-game series against Columbus.
"We found out we've got a group of kids that aren't quitters," Thomson coach Jason Osborn said after his team's season-ending loss. "We're a young team, and we gained a lot of experience from getting this far into the state playoffs. I'm so proud of these boys. To get beat hurts, but you move on."
The players, he added, "helped to make me a better coach."
Thomson finishes with its best-ever baseball season -- a record of 27-6.
The Bulldogs and Blue Devils split a doubleheader on Monday. Thomson won Game 1, 6-2. Columbus came back to win Game 2, 21-7 -- thus it set up the do or die Game 3.
"I can't believe it," longtime Columbus coach Bobby Howard said. "We were lucky. We got some breaks. Thomson gave us a good fight -- they really did. They have a good team and they are well-coached."
Columbus advances to the state championship round against Ringgold. The series begins Friday at the Randy Jordan Field in Columbus.
The Blue Devils will be attempting to win their 10th state title since 1984 -- the year that Howard began coaching the Columbus team, which now has a record of 30-5.
"We got better every year," Thomson third baseman Cody Ewest said.
"Nobody expected us to get this far. That was pretty special."
Ewest, one of three seniors on the Bulldogs' squad, was a starter for four years under Osborn and former head coach Terry Holder.
Thomson's Abram Cartledge, who won his 12th game of the season in Game 1 Monday came right back as the starter in Game 3.
Earlier Tuesday, the junior southpaw talked with Osborn about taking the mound again.
"I told him I could go again," Cartledge said.
"I felt good about it. It was about team."
Unlike his performances in the first three rounds of the state playoffs, Cartledge didn't have his best stuff in Game 3. And for that matter, neither did Andy Grimaud or Nick Rau -- both of whom pitched some in relief.
Cartledge allowed Columbus four runs during the three innings he worked.
Grimaud and Rau each gave up two runs.
Columbus started Game 2 pitcher Charles Sheffield who became the Game 3 winner.
Trailing 6-1, Thomson struck for three runs in the top of the sixth inning.
The rally saw the Bulldogs send eight batters to the plate before a 35-minute rain delay.
Ewest led off with a single and then scored on a two-run homer by center fielder Will Tankersley -- his 13th of the season.
Cartledge followed with a solo homerun deep over the center field wall to cut Columbus' lead to 8-4.
Thomson never mounted another serious threat, as they were retired in order by Columbus relief pitcher J.T. Phillips in the seventh inning.