ASU third baseman Joshua Heinrich, left, makes the tag on Columbus State’s Eric Weiss during Wednesday’s home game. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — It wasn't just the 33-7 loss to Columbus State that hurt Albany State senior William Smalls.
Suffering the program's worst loss in over a decade wasn't what inspired the Rams' captain and reigning conference player of the year to scold his teammates after Wednesday's loss — it was the way his teammates gave up on him.
"They gave up," Smalls said. "Baseball is nine innings, so you always have a chance to come back. You don't put your head down. You don't give up. You play the game all the way through no matter what."
Columbus State, which is ranked No. 24 in Division II and has been ranked as high as No. 4 this season, scored five quick runs in the first inning. It was a surmountable lead, but it was one that seemed to knock the Rams out before they even had a chance to bat.
Smalls wasn't the only one who thought his teammates gave up. After the game, ASU coach Kenyan Conner said the Rams "laid down" and gave the game away after the first inning.
"There's nothing you can tell them. It's a competitive sport. If a team challenges you, you have to challenge them back. If not, you are going to get your face beat in like that every time," said Conner, who spoke to his players for over 15 minutes after the loss. "I told them that the only people who can do something about this is them. You have to go out and compete. If somebody challenges you, you have to challenge them back. You can't just tuck your tail when you get challenged."
After scoring five in the first inning, Columbus State (18-10) plated seven in the second inning and scored at least one run the next five innings. They broke out again in the eighth inning, when they brought 18 batters to the plate, tallied 10 hits and scored 14 runs. After the dust settled, CSU finished with 31 hits and tied a program record for runs scored in a game.
It was the worst loss for the Rams in 13 years, according to the ASU sports information department, whose records only go back to 1999. ASU's previous record losses were 30-6 to Georgia College and State in 2007 and 23-0 last season to Columbus State.
Columbus State jumped out to that 13-0 lead after two innings, and the Cougars never stopped coming. They started to clear their bench in the fifth inning — after they had a 15-1 lead — but because of injuries, CSU coach Craig Appleton only had a handful of subs he could insert into the game.
"They aren't supposed to let up," Conner said. "We are throwing strikes, and they are hitting strikes. They didn't try to rub it in or anything, they just went station to station and kept moving."
ASU (9-13) finished with just eight hits but scored six runs in the eighth inning to avoid an even worse loss. The Rams used eight pitchers, including starter Ryan Latner, who threw just one inning and allowed eight runs. Walter Roberts, who allowed two runs in the third and fourth innings, was the only ASU pitcher to last more than one inning.
ASU junior Patrick Smith came off the bench and was 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI, and Small was 2-for-5 with a triple and two runs. Other than that, the Rams fizzled on offense.
"It takes a unit to win this game, and when you don't come as a unit it's kind of hard to win," Smalls said. "We didn't all come together like we should have at the beginning of the game."
Albany State travels to conference foe Stillman this weekend, which could be good medicine to recover from Wednesday's loss. The Rams are 5-1 against teams from the conference, which has just two of 12 baseball teams with records better than .500.