Meridian Star

Sports

April 11, 2014

Northeast relies on groundball outs in 4-1 win over Greene Co.

MERIDIAN — Ben Smith pitched to contact and let his infield do the work.

And his infield didn’t let him down, as the Northeast Lauderdale High School starter went the distance in a 4-1 Trojans win against Greene County High School in a key MHSAA Region 5-4A game Thursday.

Smith was brilliant on the mound, pitching seven innings of one-run ball. He had two walks and three strikeouts, with most of his outs coming on ground balls that his defense was able to turn into outs.

“That’s one thing we’ve done pretty well this year: We’ve played great defense,” Smith said. “One thing I focused on is pitching to contact. You can’t overpower everybody, and I’m not a guy that’s going to overpower people, so I have to pitch to contact.”

Northeast head coach Josh Snider said Smith’s success was a result of keeping hitters guessing all throughout the game.

“That’s Ben for you,” Snider said. “He’s going to feel it and pound the zone. He throws three pitches for strikes and keeps hitters off balance really well, and he did a good job tonight of doing that. When a hitter’s off balance, that’s what you get, ground balls. If they’re hitting ground balls all day, I’ll take it.”

Smith said only two of his pitches were working Thursday, but it was more than enough to pitch comfortably.

“I had command of my fastball, and my slider was working really well,” Smith said. “I couldn’t find my curveball, so I had to work with my slider the whole game. It kept going away, and I was always ahead of them, so I was always ahead of the game.”

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when Northeast plated its first run. Smith got the RBI on a single that sent home LaDale Cockrell from third.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Trojans extended their lead to 4-0 when Cockrell hit a single that drove in two more runs and Smith had a sacrifice fly that scored Cockrell from third later in the inning.

The one run Smith gave up came on a throwing error on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the top of the fifth. Mackenzie Scarbrough came home from third for Greene County to cut Northeast’s lead to 4-1.

At the plate, Smith finished 2-for-2 and was the only Trojan with multiple hits. Scarbrough was a perfect 3-for-3 on the night for the Wildcats.

Devin Pettey suffered the loss despite a solid performance on the mound. He went six innings and gave up four runs on seven hits. He also walked three and fanned six Northeast batters.

The Trojans (10-7, 5-2) will play at Clarkdale High School on Saturday.

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