Greenwood Post 20’s Shannon Smith thought the worst as he limped in pain along the Mirmow Field mound during the third inning of Saturday’s Game Two matchup with Orangeburg Post 4.
A line drive by Orangeburg’s Dakota Way sharply glanced off the Braves’ pitcher’s foot, momentarily knocking him to the ground. Although Smith expressed discomfort with both the mound and now his foot, he was determined to stay in the game.
“I thought my foot was broken actually,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to play. (But) I knew that we needed some pitching. So I wanted to save our pitching for the next game, so I pushed through, I guess. I wanted to help out my team as much as I could.”
Smith did not just use his arm to move Greenwood within a victory of reaching the American Legion state tournament. He drove in three runs, including a go-ahead 2-run single in the top of the ninth, to rally Greenwood to a 4-2 win over Orangeburg.
The single capped a comeback from 2-0 down for the Braves as they collected 10 hits off Orangeburg starter Zach Massengale. In addition to the 3-RBI effort, Smith allowed just four hits, struck out three and overcame hitting three batsmen for the complete-game victory.
“He was huge tonight,” Greenwood head coach Mack Hite said. “Shannon did a great job competing on the mound. Early on in the game, he came out and said, ‘I just don’t have it. I’m not throwing my best. I can’t figure it out. The mound was tough.’ We could have made a lot of excuses. He could have made up a lot of excuses. He found his stuff there midway through the game and kind of found his stride and started pitching really well. He’s been struggling with the bat, but he really came through tonight for us.”
Despite Smith’s performance, Orangeburg head coach Frank Leysath could only look in frustration at the number 5 displayed in bright red in the error section of the scoreboard. In collecting as many errors as hits, including two in the critical ninth inning, Leysath said the loss served as a microcosm of his team’s struggles all season.
“This has been pretty much the picture of the whole season of errors,” he said. “When we make errors, we don’t win. We’re not that good that we can make five errors and beat a team like Greenwood. They’re good, they’re solid and they don’t make errors.”
Orangeburg took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-out RBI single by Ryan Sandifer. Post 4 added another run in the fifth as Aaron Crandell reached home plate before Way was tagged out in a rundown between first and second during a double steal attempt.
Greenwood cut the lead to 2-1 in the sixth inning on an RBI sacrifice fly by Shannon Smith and tied it in the eighth on a run-scoring single by teammate Blake Smith.
Orangeburg had Will Gee on first base with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning when he was doubled up by shortstop Isaiah Furqueron after he caught a short fly ball by Evan Graves.
A leadoff single by Trae Coleman started the game-winning rally by Greenwood in the ninth. Dimarcus Sanders then sent a ground ball past first baseman Hobie Dennis for an error.
After a sacrifice bunt by Matthew Bridges, JoJo Chaney loaded the bases after hitting a ground ball which was booted by Orangeburg’s Gee at shortstop.
Shannon Smith proceeded to ignite the Greenwood fans in attendance with the go-ahead single. He then ended Orangeburg’s comeback hopes with a game-ending strikeout of Sandifer with Dennis on first base.
Greenwood (22-9) will look to close out the series and advance to the state tournament at 7:30 p.m. tonight at John Nave Stadium. A win by Post 4 (11-10) sets up a Game 4 Monday at Mirmow Field.
“Bottom line is it’s 2-0,” Leysath said. “If we’re going to move on, we’ve got to win three in a row. You got to win one first. If you win, then you worry about trying to win the second one. You win the second one and then you try to win the third one. It’s ... I don’t know. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”