ENTERPRISE – Inexperience and defense isn’t typically a good combination.
Don’t tell Smithville coach Jeremy Duke it won’t work.
With four eighth-graders and a ninth-grader in the starting lineup, Smithville bounced back from an error-filled 7-6 loss in Game 1 of the Class 1A slowpitch state quarterfinals with back-to-back 3-0 wins at West Union.
With the series win, Smithville (22-9) advances to a home series against Wheeler in the North finals.
“We started the season with young ones and they’re still there,” Duke said. “They have gotten so much better since game one, it’s unbelievable. It’s amazing to watch them.
“They’ve done a really good job of stepping into our tradition.”
It was shaky defense that showed up in the loss and defense that propelled the final two wins for the 2008 champions.
Smithville went ahead 3-0 in the first inning of the finale on two-out RBI singles from Kyla Ford, Breanna Edgeworth and Linsy Lann.
The defense halted two West Union comeback attempts and got a double-play ball to end the first inning. In the bottom of the fourth, a relay throw to third got Danielle Taylor on Edgeworth’s tag.
“Just credit Smithville. Their defense was tremendous today,” said West Union coach Lisa Bogue, who team finished 17-14. “We knew they would. Particularly when we got hard line drives, they made some plays.”
West Union lost nine seniors off of last season’s state title team and started a seventh- and an eighth-grader.
“To make it this far with the level of experience we had was tremendous effort on their part,” Bogue said.
In the second game, Smithville pitcher Jennie Avery held the hosts to two hits in front of that defense and her team scored on Edgeworth’s RBI groundout in the third, adding two run in the bottom of the sixth when Lann reached and West Union committed its only two errors.
Kami Roberts was 5 for 9 in the series. She and Avery are Smithville’s only senior starters.
“They’ve all matured. I’m just so proud of them,” said Roberts of her young teammates. “I just thank them so much because this is our senior year and I just want to win.”
Smithville had Game 1 under control until it mattered most.
Trailing 6-5 going into the bottom of the seventh, West Union leadoff hitter Julianna Garner singled. Danielle Taylor singled to center and on the bobbled ball, Garner went all the way home. On the play, Taylor alertly went to third base.
After two intentional walks, Bailey Bogue walked on a 3-2 pitch for a 7-6 walkoff win.
Five of West Union’s runs came on Smithville errors.
Smithville had taken a 4-0 first inning lead and scored two second inning runs when Ford singled in Edgeworth and Roberts. Garner and Taylor singled in the fifth for the Lady Eagles and Leah Paige Goolsby reached on an error to pull the hosts within 6-4. West Union got it to 6-5 on Hannah McQuary’s single and Smithville’s outfield error before Roberts’ unassisted double play ended the inning.
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Brandon Speck / Monroe Journal