Smith powers Oak Grove past Vicksburg|[4/22/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2005

OAK GROVE – Wayne Smith opened the playoffs with a complete-game victory and 13 strikeouts against Vicksburg, but the Oak Grove senior wasn’t satisfied.

“I’m glad (the offense) gave me the lead, because as of right now I’m not throwing shutouts because of my elbow,” Smith said. “I’m not making excuses, but tonight I just didn’t get the job done.”

Smith, who said tendinitis in his elbow has been inflamed for the last few weeks, may not have been pleased with the performance, but his coach certainly was. Smith (9-0) threw 145 pitches against Vicksburg in the 6-3 win to open the 5A playoffs and seemed just as strong in the seventh inning as he did in the first.

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“He amazes me,” Oak Grove coach Harry Breland said. “I thought early in the game, when he was going 3-2 to every batter, I said, ‘man, he’s piling up those pitches and it’s got to affect him toward the end.’

“But I don’t know, somehow if he can get to that sixth or seventh inning he gains some momentum. I have to say he’s one of the best finishers in the program.”

The win at Harry Breland Field gave Oak Grove (24-2) a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

Vicksburg’s Steven Price was nearly as good as Smith, but the Gators committed five errors, including one that directly led to two runs scoring in the third inning.

“Anytime you give a team the quality of Oak Grove extra outs in an inning, you’re digging yourself a hole,” Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel said. “If we can eliminate those, we’ve got ourselves a barn-burner here.”

The errors gave Smith a cushion when Oak Grove took a 4-1 lead in the third, a lead Smith wasn’t about to give up.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Wayne,” Oak Grove second baseman Hayes Singleton said. “He’s thrown real well for us this year, and we do feel confident whenever we can get some runs and he’s on the mound.”

Vicksburg started the game with two hits, but didn’t get another until the sixth inning.

Price led off the game with a double and Jordan Henry followed with an RBI single to give Vicksburg a 1-0 lead.

The play hurt Oak Grove in another way as well; catcher Cullen Tatum was forced to leave the game after injuring his knee during a play at the plate.

Oak Grove tied the game in the second inning. Kyle Lee reached on an error, and Rod Shows singled Lee home.

The Warriors took the lead one inning later. Singleton and Zack Harrington reached on singles, and Hendrick Leverette gave Oak Grove the lead with a two-out double off the left-field wall on an 0-2 count.

The hit scored Singleton. The next batter, Kyle Lee, hit a grounder to short, but the throw got by Vicksburg first baseman Stanton Price, allowing both Harrington and Leverette to score and giving Oak Grove the 4-1 lead.

“Anytime they make errors you need to take advantage of it,” Singleton said. “They did that, and we were fortunate to get those runs and score off it.”