MERIT — The North Hopkins Lady Panthers ended a best-of-three game series in three and a half hours.
North Hopkins, riding the arms of pitchers Chastin Smiddy and Jessica Harry, sweep the Class 1A area playoffs Wednesday at Bland High School field, winning by scores of 7-0 and 10-0.
The twin shutouts are nothing new for the successful Lady Panther program under Jim Westbrook. The squad came into the game with a first round bye after making their eighth consecutive playoff berth.
Smiddy pitched the first game with the senior taking the win in a 7-inning performance. She allowed no runs, fanning seven, giving up two walks and three hits. Smiddy was also the top extra base hitter in the game with two doubles and a RBI. Dodd City made four errors to fuel the 15-5 Lady Panthers.
In the second game, the 10-0 score came after six innings of play as the Lady Panthers struck early and often to claim the win. Harry was the winning pitcher with a complete game performance, allowing no runs, four hits, fanning three. Smiddy and Shaw had three hits each to spark the 14-run attack.
"We got the lead in both games and it helped. We feel like we are pretty good if we get a couple of runs early. We think we are pretty tough to beat if we get six or seven runs because of our pitching and defense," said North Hopkins coach Westbrook.
North Hopkins 7,
Dodd City 0
The handwriting was on the wall early. Dodd City pitcher Sarah Smeltzer was greeted with a sizzling double back up the middle to start the game by Smiddy hitting leadoff.
An infield hit by Crissy Hall gave the Lady Panthers two base runners. A passed moved the runners up a base each. Courtney Loper struck out. Harry grounded into a fielder's choice, but a run scored. Another run came home on a throwing error to make it a 2-0 game.
The Lady Panthers tacked on another run in the bottom of the third. Smiddy reached on an error. Hall bunted the runner to second base. Loper grounded out to the shortshop, allowing the third run of the game to race home.
Smiddy retired the Dodd City team in quick order on two grounders to shortstop and a strikeout. In the bottom of the fourth North Hopkins went back to work and doubled the score sending eight batters to the dish. Cheyenne Duke reached on a walk with one out. Tana Hall singled to right field to give the team two base runners. Hall stole second and North Hopkins had two runners in scoring position. A wild pitch plated a run and wild throw led to another to make it a 5-0 ball game. Smiddy doubled home another run to give North Hopkins a 6-0 lead.
The Lady Panthers padded the lead with another run, winning by a 7-0 score. The game only took 1:24 minutes to play.
Smeltzer was the losing pitcher, allowing seven runs off nine hits, walking two, striking out five batters.
Note- Courtney Loper had 13 putouts at first base.
Linescore -North Hopkins 7, Dodd City 0
Dodd City 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-3-4
North Hopkins 2 0 1 301 x 7-9-1
2B-Chastin Smiddy (2); W- Smiddy; L-Smeltzer
North Hopkins 10
Dodd City 0
The results were the same, just with a little different twist. The standout pitching by Harry was complimented by stellar defense.
The bats of North Hopkins were booming early as the team opened the second game with a three-run first inning. The Lady Panthers used a singled by Smiddy, a double by Crissy Hall to get going. Two runs scored on a errant throws to see the North Hopkins go up 2-0. The third run was scored when Harry grounded out.
The bottom of the first was highlight by the defensive gem of the series. Smiddy, now at shortstop, nabbed a ground shot off the bat of Syndi Horton. Smiddy lunged all out for the catch, falling to the all dirt infield and throwing to first from her knees for the final out of the first frame.
The Dodd City squad managed to load the bases in the bottom of the second. A walk, followed by an infield hit gave the team two bases runners. A fielder's choice moved the runners to second and third. A third runner reached when the third strike was dropped by the North Hopkins catcher and the sacks were juiced. Harry dug deep and would not allow a run, getting the next two batters on strikes to quell the uprising.
Harry helped her own cause in the third when she doubled and later scored on a single by Shaw as North Hopkins went up 4-0.
Another big defensive play happened in the third inning. Shaw at catcher threw out leadoff hitter and track speedster Cassidi Rogers as she tried to steal second after reaching on an outfield error. Harry allowed a bunt hit, but did not waver, getting the next two batters on weak infield grounders.
The Lady Panthers scored four runs in the top of the fourth. Smiddy had a run-scoring single. Loper drove in a run with ground out. Throwing mistakes led to two other scores as the North Hopkins speed put pressure on the Dodd City defense.
The Lady Panthers scored two more runs to finish the game off in six innings, taking the 10-0 victory.
Smeltzer again was tagged with the loss. She allowed 10 runs off 14 hits, struck out 10 in six innings with one walk.
The Lady Panthers play the winner of the Cumby/Sam Rayburn game which is being play tonight.
Westbrook said, "This is a hard-working group. A very fun bunch of girls to coach. I never have to get on them, they do the work. They play good defense, use good pitching and we scratch out a few runs from our hitting. We have to keep working in the playoffs. We might end up playing Cumby again. They have a good team, we were able to beat them 2-1, 5-4 in some very close games. It is hard to beat a good team three times. We will see how all that works out."
Linescore -North Hopkins 10, Dodd City 0
North Hopkins 3 0 1 411 10-14-0
Dodd City 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-3-3
2B-Crissy Hall, Jessica Harry
W- Harry; L-Smeltzer
Next Up - North Hopkins vs. winner of the Cumby /Sam Rayburn game, TBA.
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