Smiths Station put together a solid season based around pitching and defense.
But the offense has struggled all season long, and the Panthers attack ground to a complete halt in Fridays Class 6A playoff doubleheader on Friday against Prattville.
Unable to solve Lions pitchers Austin Crook and Justin Friday, Smiths Station only managed three hits in a 4-0 Game 1 shutout and got the bats going too late in a 9-3 Game 2 loss that ended the Panthers season in the first round of the playoffs.
Facing the sixth-ranked team in the Alabama High School Athletic Association, Smiths Station (26-12) failed to score a run until the fifth inning of Game 2.
Their pitching was outstanding, Smiths Station coach Clinton Britton said. They came right at us in both games, and we just couldnt get anything going.
Crook, a left-handed senior, made sure Prattville (32-4) opened the playoffs with a win in the first game. Despite hitting two batters in the first inning alone, Crook struck out nine, allowed a mere three hits and never allowed a Smiths Station runner to reach third base in a complete-game win.
Crooks lights-out starthe struck out six in the first three inningsbeat a solid effort by the Panthers Kyle Drury, who kept Prattvilles offense mostly in check, save for a couple of powerful blows from Dalton Kelley, the Lions leadoff hitter.
Kelley led off the first inning with a double, scored two batters later on Josh Loveladys groundout to second and belted a two-run homer, his second of the season, over the left-field wall in the fifth to give the Lions three of their four runs.
Drury gave up eight hits and struck out two in the first game to take the loss.
I thought our pitchers pitched well, and we played good defense behind them, but we had trouble scoring runs sometimes this year, and this was one of them, Britton said.
Friday, a right-hander who had two hits in the first game, failed to come up with the shutout, but he handcuffed the Panthers hitters long enough for his own offense to take over.
Held to only another Kelley leadoff run for the first three innings by Smiths Station starter Marc Skinner, the Lions exploded for six runs in the top of the fourth inning, a rally highlighted by six hits, two walks and a two-run double by Hayden White.
Smiths Station scored its first run when Skinner trotted home on an RBI groundout by Sean Osman in the top of the fifth. Osman added an RBI double off of the left-field wall in the seventh.
Friday struck out four in a complete-game performance that sent Prattville into the second round to face Central-Phenix City, a team that swept Benjamin Russell on Friday night.
It was just a tough draw, Britton said. Theyre a good ball team at home, and my hats off to them. Game 1 Smiths Station 000 000 0 0 3 0 Prattville 100 120 4 8 0 Winning pitcher Austin Crook. Losing pitcher Kyle Drury. Leading hitters: Smiths Station Tyler Lynn 1-2, Clayton Huckaby 1-2, Sean Osman 1-3. Prattville: Dalton Kelley 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, Justin Friday 2-2, 2B, Sam Chambliss 2-3.
Game 2 Prattville 100 602 0 -- 9 13 1 Smiths Station 000 010 2 -- 3 8 2 Winning pitcher Jordan Friday. Losing pitcher Marc Skinner: Leading hitters: Smiths Station Tyler Bell 3-4, Sean Asmon 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, Dylan Tomlin 1-3, RBI. Prattville Hayden White 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, Ethan Lambdin 2-3, 2 RBI, Josh Lovelady 2-5, RBI.