Brookhaven bags South State 4A crown

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Pitcher Scotty Smith and catcher Adam Ogden shared a joyfulembrace Monday night on Moyer Field. That 1-2 combination had justhelped the Brookhaven Panthers beat West Jones 3-1 for the SouthState 4A championship before an estimated crowd of 1,100.

Brookhaven (28-7), enjoying its greatest season, advances to the4A best-of-three state championship series against Pontotoc (32-4),which eliminated Ridgeland 2-1 last night at Raymond for the NorthState title. The Panthers will host Pontotoc Thursday night at 7and travel to Pontotoc Saturday for the second game.

Smith (10-2), pitching his second complete game in 5 days, beatthe Mustangs with a gutsy, 4-hit performance. He struck out 7batters, walked 1 and hit 1 batter. The senior right-hander, wassupported by flawless defense after the first inning when thePanthers committed 2 errors.

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“This is the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Smith. “Weall worked hard for it. We knew they (Mustangs) had to come andplay us at our park and we were ready for them.”

West Jones (23-9) had lost the opening game of the series 7-6last Thursday but rebounded to beat the Panthers 8-2 Saturday atLaurel.

Ogden said Smith was on target and his control was excellent.”Scotty was hitting the spots. I tried to frame pitches for him. Ithink he only missed four. He’s so consistent under pressure. He’sawesome.”

Smith gave up a towering, solo home run to third baseman BrettLawson in the second inning. The shot cleared the left field fencenear the 320 mark and tied the game at 1-1.

In the last 5 innings, Smith only gave up 2 hits and walked 1.The Mustangs got a second hit from leftfielder Brett Hyatt in theseventh and pinch hitter Ray Ray Pickering drew a base on ballsbefore Smith got Britt Barefoot on a popup to first baseman GrantMcDonnieal for the final out.

“Scotty Smith is tough as nails,” said BHS head coach RandySpring who received the traditional ice-water soaking after thegame. “He wills us to win.

“We struggled defensively for two games but we settled down andmade the big plays tonight after the first inning,” Springcontinued. “Our kids responded. I’m extremely proud of them.”

Offensively, the Panthers were able to solve submarine pitcherJonathan Blakeney (13-5) after being held to 1-hit Saturday by thesenior right-hander. Centerfielder Xavier Qualls singled anddoubled and shortstop Brooks Hall singled and tripled to paceBrookhaven’s 7-hit attack.

“(Blakeney) is a great pitcher but you have to sit back and waiton your pitch,” said Qualls. “Coach told us if you see it (pitch)at the knees, it will be in the dirt. If it’s high, it will be inyour hitting zone.”

Brookhaven took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.Leadoff batter Darius Perkins was hit by a pitch. Hall sliced ablooper to right field but a diving defensive play by WesleyJohnson allowed the ball to get past him and Hall wound up on thirdwith a triple. Perkins scored.

In the third, Qualls smashed a line drive off Blakeney’s rightbuttock. Qualls stole second base. Hall followed with a single toleft field and Qualls came sliding home with the lead run, makingit 2-1.

In the fifth, W.T. King beat out a high chopper to deep short.He went to second on a throwing error by Trey Sutton. A sacrificebunt by Perkins advanced King to third base. Qualls came to theplate and lashed an RBI double which sailed over the fielder’s headand rolled to the left field fence for a 3-1 lead.

While Brookhaven celebrated its success, the West Jones playerswept openly. The West Jones football team had been South Staterunner-up to Wayne County last November.

West Jones head coach Wade Clark hugged many of his playersafter the game as they slowly packed up their gear. “It was a toughloss,” said Clark, tears swelling his blue eyes and streaking hischeeks.

“It was a great game,” Clark continued. “We hit the ball hardbut Brookhaven made the plays tonight. Their pitcher battled andbeat us.”