SMITHS STATION, Ala. -- The past few seasons, the Auburn High Tigers have ruled the roost when it comes to Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A Area 7 baseball.
Tuesday afternoon, the Smiths Station Panthers sent a message to Auburn that the road to another area title won't come easy, as Smiths Station knocked off the Tigers, 7-3, in both teams' area opener.
"It's always big to win an area game, but this one gives us a lead in the series," said Smiths Station coach Clinton Britton. "But now we have to go (to Auburn) Thursday with the same frame of mind that we had for this game. It's really important for us to get that next win."
No. 7 Smiths Station (14-5) got on the board first with a run in the bottom of the first, but No. 5 Auburn came back with a pair of runs in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead.
Auburn showed its mettle in the top of the fourth, as the Tigers used a single, sacrifice bunt and a two-out RBI single to score another run and edge ahead, 3-2. Auburn's lead would be short-lived, though.
Auburn starter Carson Meadows opened the bottom of the fourth with 12 straight balls, walking three batters to load the bases with no outs. That got Meadows lifted from the game in favor of reliever John Alan Grubbs, but Tyler Lynn then singled to score two runs for the Panthers to give Smiths Station a 4-3 lead.
With runners on first and third and still nobody out, Sean Osmon hit a grounder that resulted in two Auburn throwing errors, allowing two more runs to cross the plate and widen the Panthers' lead to 6-3. Dylan Tomlin finished the scoring with an RBI groundout to plate Osmon and give Smiths Station a comfortable 7-3 lead.
"Early on, we played a little shaky," said Britton. "We missed an opportunity to manufacture a run and I think that hurt us. But our guys were really patient at the plate (drawing eight walks) and that allowed us a chance to score some runs and win the game."
Armed with a four-run lead, Smiths Station starter Kyle Drury cruised through
the final three innings to pick up the complete game victory. Drury threw just 75 pitches (including 52 strikes) and allowed three earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts and only one walk. He induced 11 flyball outs and worked ahead of hitters most of the game, throwing 17 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.
"(Drury) was just steady for us and he does a great job when he's ahead of hitters," said Britton. "He just goes out there, throws strikes and allows his defense to work behind him."
Lynn and Clay Huckaby were both 2-for-4 for the Panthers and Mark Skinner also doubled for Smiths Station, which travels to Auburn for a doubleheader Thursday afternoon, First pitch for the twinbill is set for 5 p.m.
Tuesday at Smiths Station
Auburn 020 100 0--3 4 4
Smiths Station. 101 500 x--7 6 0 WP--Kyle Drury. LP--Carson Meadows. Leading hitters--Smiths Station, Tyler Linn and Clay Huckaby each 2-4.
Records: Auburn 16-8, 0-1 Area 7-6A. Smiths Station 14-5, 1-0. Next: Smiths Station at Auburn (DH) Thursday at 5 p.m.