McALESTER — Throw a first-pitch strike, and a player’s batting average tends to drop.
McAlester pitcher Deon Smith threw enough first-pitch strikes to drop the Stigler Panthers’ average and their tournament standings at the same time.
Smith gave up just two hits in seven innings, helping the Buffaloes edge the Panthers 5-4 in Thursday’s summer-league tournament game at Mike Deak Field in McAlester.
“He pitched to contact, struck some guys out and pitched really well for seven innings,” McAlester coach Trent Homer said of Smith. “He’s a pretty mentally tough kid.”
McAlester and Stigler also beat Kiowa 11-1 and 10-0, respectively, during Thursday’s pool play. The single-elimination portion of the tournament continued Friday and Saturday.
Smith retired the Panthers 1-2-3 in four separate innings. He faced just three batters in the top of the second, giving up a one-out walk to Adam Shouse but then picking him off first before ending the inning with a strikeout.
Smith also twice got Stigler to ground into double plays, but neither double play led to scoreless innings. Kyle Allen led off the fourth with a double to center, took third on a double play two batters later and scored on a passed ball to cut McAlester’s lead to 5-1.
Smith got out of the fourth with a strikeout. He pitched a perfect fifth but then struggled in the sixth, beaning Robbie Turner to lead off the inning.
Smith erased Turner by getting Kyle Maxwell to ground into a double play, but Smith then beaned Cameron Highfill and walked Wade
Henderson and Quantez Jim to load the bases. Shouse then unloaded the bases with a three-RBI double down the third base line that made it 5-4 Buffs.
“First pitch should always be a strike,” Smith said. He attributed Stigler’s three-run sixth to his curveball and said, “I was releasing it too early, and it was just hanging.”