GENE PHELPS: Title was total team effort

Drew Lann struck out three in five innings to earn the win for Smithville in Game 2. (Keith Warren)

Drew Lann struck out three in five innings to earn the win for Smithville in Game 2. (Keith Warren)

PEARL

Thursday wasn’t supposed to be Smithville’s day.

The Seminoles’ opponent in Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 1A state championship baseball series at Trustmark Park, Natchez Cathedral, had its ace – right-hander Thomas Garrity – pitching.

Garrity, who had a 9-1 record with a 1.04 ERA, had pitched 20-plus scoreless innings in the postseason. He was Cathedral’s hope to force a Game 3.

Smithville, however, had a different take on the eventual outcome of Game 2.

The Seminoles made the crucial plays on defense. They got a solid one-two pitching performance from starter Drew Lann and reliever Blake Comer. Plus, they got the key hits needed to beat Garrity and Cathedral, 6-2, sweep the series, and bring the state championship home.

“We just played good defense. Drew (Lann) battled and the kids made the plays for him,” third-year Smithville coach Steve Kerr said.

“This is a special group. You have to be a team, not a group of individuals. Our kids bought into that.”

Defense key

Smithville pulled off two double plays, one in the fourth inning with runners at first and second. The second came in Cathedral’s two-run sixth.

On the first, ‘Noles first baseman Kyle Noe caught a pop-up, then alertly threw out a Cathedral runner attempting to tag and take third.

“It’s instinct,” Noe said. “Whenever you catch the ball, you find the runner.”

Hood, playing second, started the DP in the sixth, making a leaping grab of a line drive and doubling up a Green Wave runner who broke from the bag.

Pitching, hitting

Kerr’s decision to start his senior, Lann, and save his No. 2 pitcher, Comer, for a possible Game 3 was a good one. Lane went five innings, gave up four hits and struck out three for the win. Comer gave up two hits in two innings and earned a save.

“I knew we had (Comer) coming in if I got in trouble,” Lann said.

At the plate, the Seminoles made the most of their four hits off Garrity. The final two – a double by Hood and a single by Comer – gave them a 6-0 lead in the fourth.

“It’s great to go out with a bang,” said Hood, a senior.

A bang that helped make it Smithville’s day … and season.

gene.phelps@journalinc.com