Before a trip to the heart of the state – Jefferson City for a game with Helias tonight, Columbia for districts after – Smith-Cotton baseball had in-conference business to attend to.
The Tigers offense went right to work Wednesday in Clinton, scoring six runs in the first inning and clocking out in the fifth inning with a 12-2 road victory over the Cardinals to secure an undefeated conference record.
Baxter Mays’ 1-out walk prompted a salvo of Smith-Cotton runs scored. Nick Hagedorn singled softly to the shortstop, and Chase Plymell scored both runners with a triple over the Clinton left fielder.
Gavin Jones, batting fifth, walked and stole second. Jake Kindle reached on an error and Jayce Simoncic drilled a double to dead center for two RBIs. Simoncic was 2-3 with three RBIs. Seth Fraley scored Simoncic with an RBI single.
Plymell, who was 3-4 with a double, single and stolen base, said owning the West Central Conference title was a step towards a bigger goal.
“Coming into the season we really had our minds on districts, winning districts,” Plymell said. “Obviously we wanted to win conference and we did that. We’re really proud of our accomplishment there. But today was a day where we knew we had a chance to win and we had played this team before. We came in here with a business-like mentality, knowing that we had a job to do.
“We’re just getting ourselves ready for districts.”
Roberto Ramirez pitched three innings for the Tigers, allowing two runs on four hits in the first inning.
Clinton’s first four batters reached on singles on the weaker end of the line-drive spectrum. Christian Jones’ half-swing was as good as a bunt single and advanced leadoff man Trey Miller to second. Miller and Jones scored on respective Jack Schmedding and Jordan Mendenhall singles.
Ramirez stranded both runners after catching a Clay Ivy line drive and doubling up Mendenhall at first.
Ivy would be the only Cardinal to reach base again. He grounded to short in the fourth and advanced to second on a passed ball at first base against Tyler Abney in relief.
Ramirez said he focused on three pitches – fastball, changeup and cutter – against the Cardinal lineup.
“I didn’t know I was pitching until about 30 minutes before we got here,” Ramirez said. “But I was ready to pitch … I didn’t use all of my pitches.”
Dalton Zaremba led off the fifth inning with a double and Brice Pannier and Mays reached on a hit by pitch and error, respectively. A Hagedorn sacrifice fly to center field made the score 10-2 with one out in the fifth. May scored on a Jake Kindle infield single and Jones, who walked and stole second, scored from third on a wild pitch to induce a 10-run mercy rule.
The conference title is Smith-Cotton’s third straight. Head coach Jud Kindle said he was both proud of the achievement and fixed on the games ahead.
“It’s good to be 10-0 in conference,” Kindle said. “And win a conference championship again. That’s three years in a row for us. That’s pretty good … But our main focus is districts. That’s our main goal.”
Smith-Cotton (26-4) faces Hickman tomorrow at 5 p.m. and begin their district tournament Saturday against the host school Battle at 4 p.m.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2