Kendall Smith stood around in cold, damp conditions for five innings on May 11 before St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes baseball coach Jim Supple told the Saints senior to loosen up and get ready. In the bottom of the sixth, Smith was asked to produce.
SSSAS and Episcopal were tied at 3 and the Saints had a runner on third with two outs when Supple called on Smith to pinch hit. While extended inactivity and temperatures in the 50s provided No. 15 with reasonable excuses, Smith opted for the clutch alternative.
Smith lined a 2-2 pitch past the first-base bag, driving in the go-ahead run during a 6-4 victory over Episcopal in the opening round of the IAC Tournament at SSSAS. The Saints added two more insurance runs to complement a strong pitching performance from starter Joe Warren.
"My coach told me to get loose," Smith said. "I took a few swings and I just did my job."
The Saints, last season’s IAC Tournament champions, advanced to the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. May 13.
"[Smith] had a great day in practice the other day swinging the bat," Supple said. "He’s a good contact hitter and that’s what we needed in that situation. He came in and did an outstanding job. I can’t ask for anything more out of him."
Episcopal jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when leadoff hitter Fielding Harrison drew a walk and cleanup hitter Lorenzo Chavez belted an opposite-field home run to right.
"We were pretty confident," Chavez said.
But the Saints sophomore settled down after the rocky start and did not allow another runner to reach second base until the sixth inning. After getting out of the opening frame, Warren struck out the side in the second, third and fifth innings on his way to a 14-strikout performance. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on five hits while walking two and hitting a batter in seven innings.
"I made a couple mistakes, it’s just they capitalized on the one in the first inning," Warren said. "I was lucky enough that they weren’t able to do that in the later innings."
Warren’s most effective pitch against the Maroon — the slider — wasn’t in his repertoire prior to the game, according to sophomore. Warren usually throws a curveball, but struggled with his release. Instead of getting the drop action of a curveball, Warren’s breaking pitch had the sideways movement of a slider.
"I just couldn’t get on top of it," Warren said of how he released his breaking pitch, "and that seemed to work great."
Jason Jamula had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and an RBI for the Saints. Doc Jacobsen had two hits and Pat Daly added a two-run double.
Chavez suffered the loss for Episcopal, allowing six runs — four earned — on nine hits while hitting a batter and striking out three.
Chavez balked home the Saints’ first run after Jamula reached on a bloop double. SSSAS took a 3-2 lead when Jamula’s ground ball bounced over the head of the Episcopal third baseman, scoring Josh Smith. Kendall Smith’s game-winning hit rolled just fair past first base.
"I thought our pitcher pitched really well," Episcopal coach Rick Stubbs said. "I don’t want to take anything away from St. Stephen’s, but we got a couple of balls that [were barely] fair down third base and a couple of things off the fist that rolled right over our infielders’ gloves. Get breaks that go the other way and we win this game."