Editor’s Note: The article first appeared in the July 5 edition of The Pine Bluff Commercial.
They say the third time’s the charm, and that was true for Sheridan Yellowjackets Junior Legion coach Landon Moore Wednesday night in Cabot.
After seeing his first two pitchers of the night last one combined inning, Moore found his lucky charm Jesse Smith, who led his team to an 8-6 win over the Cabot Centennial Bank Red team.
Cabot’s first four batters of the game reached base, with one of those coming home, against Sheridan starting pitcher Colton Caple at which time Moore brought in left fielder Caleb Clay.
Clay let just one of the runners he inherited to score in the inning.
"(Caleb) did what he was supposed to and minimize the damage," Moore said.
When Clay came out for the second inning, though, he couldn’t find the strike zone.
Two walks sandwiched around a hit batsman loaded the bases with nobody out.
Moore once again went to the outfield in search of a consistent pitcher.
This time he found one in right fielder Jesse Smith, although it took him an inning to show it.
Jesse Smith allowed all three runners, plus an additional one charged to him, to score in the inning, but settled down after that.
In fact, the run charged to Jesse Smith was the final run Cabot would score in the game as he pitched four scoreless frames the rest of the way.
"Jesse did a great job throughout the game," Moore said.
They may not have scored Cabot threatened a couple of times against Smith.
A one-out single followed by a walk gave Cabot two runners, but Jesse Smith struck out Braden Jarnigan and got Josh Kelpine to ground into a forceout to end the frame.
Cabot wasted a two-out double by Lino Garcia as Jesse Smith struck out Seth Cummings to end the inning.
The biggest threat by Cabot was in the sixth and final inning.
With the score 8-6, a pair of singles, sandwiched around a groundout, put runners at the corners with just one out.
With Garcia batting, the runner on first stole second to put the tying run in scoring position for Cabot’s best hitter on the night.
Jesse Smith got Garcia, who had two doubles in the game, to hit a grounder to third.
Sheridan third basemen Nick Whitley caught the runner at third in a rundown, but the runner made it back to third safely when shortstop Lathan Wylie dropped the ball after tagging him.
"I think (Jesse Smith) got a little nervous there, I mean, I was a little nervous with a guy at the plate who had hit the ball hard twice," Moore said. "But Jesse made a good pitch. He still hit it hard, but Nick (Whitley) made a great play at third (base).
"It was a heads up play by Nick to try and get the runner going home, but we probably would have been OK with him just taking the out at first (base), too."
When the dust had settled Cabot had the bases loaded and still just one out.
Moore needed Jesse Smith to buckle down and his pitcher came through for him.
After striking out pinch hitter Mike Havard, Smith got Chase Harper to fly out to center field to end the game.
"Jesse definitely had ice in his veins," Moore said.
Sheridan’s offense benefited from seven Cabot errors.
Six out of Sheridan’s eight runs came off of errors.
Three first-inning errors led to Sheridan plating four runs.
Sheridan scored a pair in the third inning and one in the fourth, all coming via the error.
Cabot really had trouble fielding Sheridan’s bunts, twice throwing them down the right field line.
"We bunted several times, because we saw that as a way to put pressure on the defense," Moore said. "Our guys knew that if they put the ball in play there was going to be a good chance they’d get on base, so we were just hunting for fastballs."
Cabot’s starting pitcher Jacob Womack pitched a fairly good game, but he wore down in the fifth and that allowed Sheridan to pick up an important insurance run.
With two outs and trailing 7-6, Womack hit Austin Howard and then walked Renner Smith to force in a run.
Andrew Clark led Sheridan going 3 for 4 with two runs scored, while Renner Smith went 1 for 2 with a pair of walks and two runs scored.
Jesse Smith picked up the win and finished with seven strikeouts while allowing just one run on seven hits over five innings.