Jackson Smith is used to dominating opponents. The South Carolina-bound Hartselle senior is a flamethrower who possesses what at times is untouchable stuff.
Smith had it all working Friday afternoon in a commanding complete-game outing in which he allowed two runs, neither of them earned, on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts as Hartselle cruised past Spanish Fort, 8-2, in Game 1 of the AHSAA Class 5A baseball finals at Paterson Field. The Tigers (43-15)will try to knock off the three-time defending state champions at 10 a.m. today at Riverwalk Stadium.
“I knew I could rely on my fielders, let them hit the ball, put it in play and they were going to take care of me,” Smith said. “I feel like my job is to get three outs as fast as I can, by strikeouts, fly outs or groundouts, it doesn’t really matter.”
Smith (9-1) got the outs with ease, not allowing a runner past first on their own merit. Hartselle had three fielding errors in the top of the fourth, which allowed one runner to reach and eventually score on a groundout, and a second scored after two throwing errors while stealing second base.
“He’s going to make you earn every run. It definitely put us behind the eight ball,” Spanish Fort coach Brent Boyd said. “After that, our attitudes changed a little bit which will have to be adjusted (today).”
Third baseman Tyler Phillips (2-for-3) smoked a solo homer to left field in the bottom of the fifth to make it 8-2, adding to an already good day after a two-run single in the third blew the game open at 7-0.
“That was luck,” Phillips said of his third-inning single to right. “I thought I swung way late, thought I was way behind it, happened to hit it and I put it in the right spot.”
Spanish Fort (38-8) scored two in the top of the fourth as Will Luft picked up an RBI-groundout to second and Tyler Trammell (2-for-3) singled, stole second and scored on a pair of throwing errors to make it 7-2.
After two walks to open the bottom of the third, catcher Chris Brown smacked an RBI-double to right field on the first pitch. Colton Ord got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk which ended the day for Spanish Fort starter Ethan Walker (6-3).
“Battle back, find what was going wrong in my mechanics, but it didn’t really work out,” said Walker, who allowed seven runs on four hits and four walks in two-plus innings in the loss.
Brett Blackwood (1-for-3) struck out with the bases loaded to end the third but the damage was already done. He put Hartselle on the board early, smashing a two-run shot to left field in the first to make it 2-0.