The outcome was not what they wanted, but the successful season the Smith Station baseball team had this year was one to remember, and it was a much-needed deep playoff run. Before the semi-finals matchup against Central, the Panthers were 4-0 in the playoffs. With two wins against Central, the Panthers would punch their ticket to the state championship game for the first time since their 2015 championship.
Central was the hosting team, and despite being a road game for Smiths Station, they packed their side of the stadium just as much as Central did during this added chapter to their rivalry. The Red Devils were there because they were the area champions, but Smiths Station was there with the most dangerous tool a team can have–momentum, and that momentum carried them throughout the playoffs, while they were playing the best baseball of the season.
During Game 1, the matchup was as advertised with both teams trading runs in the first half of the game, but it was the fourth and fifth innings that led Central to pull ahead and take the game, 8-4.
Jake Middleton was on the mound to get the series going, and although he has been their best pitcher all season, the Red Devils roughed him up with twelve hits. Despite the outcome, Middleton was still in the driver’s seat because his offense was helping him along the way early, until the Red Devil’s pitching stopped giving the Panthers chances at the plate. The Panthers never took the lead, but they were able to stay close and kept responding and tying the game up. Brandon Green drew a RBI walk, and Middleton knocked in a run off of a sacrifice fly to take the first lead change of the game to go up 2-1 in the third inning. Smiths Station responded one more time in the fourth inning to tie it back up at 3-3. For the rest of the game, the Panthers could not get much going, and they let Central take the lead further and further until the ballgame was over.
Very quickly, Game 2 followed Game 1, and the Panthers could not come up with timely hits to put themselves in the driver’s seat, despite it being another close game in the first half with the Red Devils only up 2-0, which led to Central winning the game, 28-1.