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Ole Brook Panthers ring up state title

JACKSON — Pitcher Scotty Smith handcuffed the Pontotoc Warriorswith a 2-hitter and the Brookhaven Panthers roared to a 10-2triumph in the Class 4A State Baseball Championship game Saturdayat Smith-Wills Stadium. Smith’s next assignment is to be fitted fora championship ring.

Brookhaven (30-8), winning its first-ever state baseball crown,celebrated its greatest campaign. A crowd estimated at 3,000-pluswatched the Panthers batter Pontotoc pitching for 11 hits. They hadlost the first game of the series 6-5 at Moyer Field but reboundedto smash the Warriors 11-0 Monday night at Pontotoc, forcing athird game.

“Whatever they give me, I’ll wear it,” said Smith when askedabout a championship ring. “Our team worked hard to get here and wedeserve it.”

Smith mastered the Warriors and carried a no-hitter into the topof the seventh inning. A leadoff double by Tyler Hodge landed atthe base of the center field fence, ending Pontotoc’s hittingdrought.

“It was hot out there,” said Smith. “We emptied two (water)coolers.”

Smith (13-2) struck out 9 batters and walked 1. Pontotoc scoredits only run in the second inning when Smith overthrew first baseafter fielding a slow dribbler to the left of the mound. HayesGregory went to second on the overthrow and courtesy runner JarredDuff later scored on consecutive ground outs.

Brookhaven responded with 4 runs in the bottom of the second.After Pontotoc starter Caleb Kidd had struck out the first 2batters, Smith greeted him with a sharp single past shortstop.Designated hitter Josh Patrick was hit by a pitch and courtesyrunner Marlon Dixon advanced to second.

Cody Dunaway slapped an opposite field single on the first pitchand Dixon scored to tie the game at 1-1. W.T. King followed with anRBI single to right and the Panthers led 2-1.

“It was a first pitch fastball,” said Dunaway, one of eightseniors on the squad. “I felt it coming and I just hit it. This issomething I’ll always remember.”

Darius Perkins provided a 2-RBI single to left and the Panthersled 4-1.

In the fourth, Ole Brook added 3 more runs. King’s blooperdropped in behind first base when the second baseman bobbled theball. Perkins and Xavier Qualls drew consecutive walks to load thebases. Brooks Hall lofted a sacrifice fly to center and it was5-1.

“This is better than anything that has happened to me,” saidHall, reviewing the championship victory after the game. “I’mextremely happy but I’m sad, too. This is the last time for us toplay together.”

Adam Ogden continued the scoring spree. His RBI single made it7-1. Perkins had just scored on a throwing error by Kidd.

Josh Robinson replaced Kidd (12-2) on the mound. Kidd had beatthe Panthers in the series opener. He struck out 5 batters andwalked 4, allowing 7 runs.

BHS head coach Randy Spring said his team overcame early jittersand played well. “I was a little worried at first but we told thekids to relax and don’t let the atmosphere bother you.”

Smith had thrown a 4-hitter Monday at Pontotoc. He was ready topitch again in the title game.

“Scotty is a warrior,” said Spring. “We had a warrior on themound and a bunch of tough kids playing behind him. Our kids willget rings for winning this championship.”

The Panthers plated 3 more runs in the sixth. Xavier Qualls ledoff with a single to right. Hall lofted a double to deepright-center field. Ogden was hit by a pitch to load the bases.Grant McDonnieal sent an RBI single to left field and it was8-1.

Patrick provided a 2-RBI single past third base and Brookhavenled 10-1.

Pontotoc head coach Phil Webb complimented the Panthers.”They’re a good team and they swung the bats hard. We didn’t makethe plays.”

Webb said Smith dominated his team again. “We saw him in Game 2.He located well today and did a good job.”

Like Brookhaven, Webb is losing eight seniors.

“All that hard work finally paid off for us,” said Qualls. “Itfeels great to win state.”