PEARL • The third time’s the charm.
In its third-straight trip to Pearl, Smithville defeated Stringer 1-0 in Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 1A state championship at Trustmark Park on Friday to sweep the best-of-three series.
Smithville won Game 1, 4-2, on Thursday.
It’s the team’s second state championship and first since 2014. The Seminoles (20-7) played for the title in 2017 and 2018 but lost both times.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Smithville coach Jamie Russell said. “They fought and fought. I questioned our fight all year in the regular season. We just didn’t do things great, but it’s just something about when they get into the playoffs. They turned it on and they battled and fought.
“I couldn’t be prouder. I love coaching this group.”
With a 1-0 series lead, Layne Williams stepped on the mound and delivered the performance of his lifetime.
Williams threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed only three hits. His defense made four great plays to help maintain the shutout.
In the bottom of the first, Dyllan Moffett, Tucker Hood and Jordan Wardlaw connected on a relay throw from left field to cut down a runner at home plate to end the inning.
In the second inning, Todd Cowley made a sliding catch in deep left center field. In the third, Cowley made a diving catch and doubled up a runner at second base to end the inning.
In the fifth with a runner on third base, Hood ended the inning by stretching over the third base dugout and catching a foul ball out of play.
“Our defense is what got us here,” Russell said. “My philosophy is defense wins championships. Everybody wants to hit, hit, hit, but if you can’t catch it, you ain’t got a chance.”
With two outs in the seventh, Jared Johnson hit a solo home run to left field on the first pitch for the game’s only run.
It was his third hit of the game and his 10th home run of the season.
“I just wanted to be big for my team,” Johnson said. “Whenever it went over, I just got electric. I think everybody did. … I wanted to hit one down here. I thought I could hit one out, and then doing that in the top of the seventh with two outs was a huge blessing.”
Big Inning: With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, Mitch Finn came in and secured the win by getting a flyout.
Big Stat: Williams pitched 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.
Coach Speak: “Just like always, like last year when we went three games every single series, they’re always going to give me a heart attack,” Russell said.