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Eagles rip Amite in opener

[05/02/01] LIBERTY Porters Chapel Academy used the usual dominant performance from Heath Smith and Amite’s sloppy fielding to bring home an 11-5 victory in the first game of their second-round series.

Smith struck out nine and allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, and PCA (18-10) took advantage of eight Amite (16-14) errors to score six unearned runs and snap a four-game postseason losing streak Tuesday.

Smith also had a two-run single as part of a seven-run seventh inning, Dustin Abbott went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and T.J. Smith singled, walked twice, was hit by a pitch and scored three runs.

“That first win is always the most important thing,” said Heath Smith (9-1), who has allowed only eight earned runs in 11 starts. “It gets that little confidence up for you and it also gets the other team down.”

The best-of-three series continues Thursday at PCA. Game 2 will begin at 4:30 p.m., with Game 3, if necessary, following. Andrew Embry (3-1) will start for PCA against Amite’s John Birdsong (4-1).

If the series goes to a Game 3, PCA coach Randy Wright said he would use Smith again, while Amite coach Eddie Harden said he would go with Stewart Gordon (5-4).

“It feels good, but that team over there is a very good team and we realize it’s not over …,” Wright said.

Errors cost Amite Game 1. Two in the third inning and two more in the fourth helped PCA take a 3-0 lead. Another Rebel error, on the end of a sixth-inning single by Jeremiah Riggs, allowed T.J. Smith to score from first and pushed it to 4-0.

“If they would have made a couple of those plays early that they didn’t make, the whole game might have been different,” Wright said.

Amite finally cracked Heath Smith in the bottom of the sixth, on an RBI single by Clay Kirkland that cut it to 4-1, but PCA answered with seven runs in the seventh. The Eagles sent 12 batters to the plate despite getting only two hits during the rally.

Amite committed three errors in the inning including a dropped fly ball off the bat of Abbott that allowed two runs to score but starting pitcher John David McKay’s control problems finally caught up to him and cost the Rebels.

McKay struck out 11 but hit five batters three in the seventh inning, one with the bases loaded and walked three more.

“I think he started thinking some. The pitch that we were getting them out on, that was the same pitch. He got tired,” Harden said. “The bottom line was, we had two outs when he started hitting people. A groundball and we’re out of the inning. I didn’t want to show any other pitchers … He was at his limit. We should have been out of the inning before then.”

After Heath Smith walked the leadoff batter to start the seventh, Wright pulled his ace to save him for Thursday. Amite then rallied for four runs off of two PCA pitchers, with left fielder William Dillon delivering a bases-clearing double to cut it to 11-5.

But the deficit was too much for Amite to overcome, and PCA’s Kyle Ehrhardt retired the next three batters in order to close the game.

“It’s a 4-1 ballgame, we make those plays and get out of the inning without them scoring a run, and they come back and do what they did, we win the ballgame,” Harden said. “But that’s irrelevant now.”