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In a night of home runs, it was Smithville that had the final say, defeating Myrtle 27-24 during a late evening, dramatic affair Thursday night.
Down 24-19 heading into the final three outs, the Lady Seminoles loaded the bases preceding a two-run hit by Megan Whitehead. Intentionally walking Breanna Edgeworth during the next at bat, Smithville again had bases loaded for freshman Claire McNeese, whose grand slam punched the Lady 'Noles' ticket to Jackson.
"We were good offensively, but defensively, we were the worst team in America in the playoffs," Myrtle coach Robert Gordon said. "That was proven in the Houlka series and now this series. We could not make the routine outs. We could not field and we could not do the things we needed to do. Defense will win you a championship, I don't care how many points you put on that board. If you do not play defense, you will not win. That was evident tonight."
The final game of these series went back and forth, as both teams scored runs in every inning and Myrtle leading by eight late in the contest. The teams combined for eight home runs, including a sixth inning grand slam by Meshay Cox that gave the Lady Hawks a 23-16 lead. Gordon credited Smithville's resilience throughout the final two games.
"They did a good job, made some routine plays and they had a couple errors, but they came to play the second and third game," he said. "They wanted it worse evidently, because our defense was terrible. I've never seen so many mishaps as we went through."
The Lady Hawks opened the series with a 12-5 win led by three hits from Cox, including a two-run home run in the second. Edgeworth drove in all of Smithville's runs off two home runs, and Myrtle had three players with multiple hits (Cox, Jenna Jordan and Kiana Judon).
Smithville forced the deciding game three, coming from behind for a 9-8 game two win with Whitehead, McNeese and Laken Armstrong each with multiple hits.
Myrtle led 8-6 in the seventh after Judon broke the tie at six with a two-run home run. Placing runners on first and second, McNeese and Kyla Ford brought in runs to tie the game, and Myrtle walked in the game-winning run with bases loaded.
The loss closes the Lady Hawks season and is a bitter end to a tragic week for the community, one that rallied around David Moody, who passed away earlier in the week in a car accident.
"We had a good season. I thought we were the better team in the north and obviously I thought we were better tonight, but defensively we were not," Gordon said. "It was meant to be evidently, and this hurts. These girls are heart broken. They've been through a difficult week, and it's been hard for all of us, so this is only salt in the wound. We wanted to do this for our school and come together for our school, but we couldn't get it done."