An Adairsville graduate and former assistant coach, Roper’s first go-around against Cass as the head man of the Tigers was a success as they defeated the Colonels by a score of 10-0 in six innings at Cass High Monday night.
“Anytime you play against your cross-county rival, it’s guys you grew up playing with, kids you know on the team, you want to be able to do well,” Roper said. “Nothing against [Cass head coach Adam Williams], he does a great job, but they’ve had the upper hand on us the last couple of years, so it’s good to get one. They’re going to come to our place Thursday guns blazing, so we’ll have to be ready, but anytime you can get someone in your county, it’s a good win.”
Senior Hunter Smith shut down the Cass lineup as he pitched all six innings, allowing just one hit and two walks to Cass batters while striking out five. At one point, Smith retired 11 consecutive Cass hitters.
Typically a relief pitcher, Smith was asked to start the game and throw more pitches than he was accustomed to.
“Hunter Smith did everything we asked,” Roper said. “We threw a lot of pitchers this weekend, and I told him, I needed him to throw somewhere between 60 and 70 pitches and he ended up at 76. We’re trying to get his pitch count up for region play and we were able to do that, but a phenomenal job by my senior.”
“It’s a big change,” Smith said of the switch from reliever to starter, “I’m not used to going that long, but when you get ahead, it makes it easier on yourself. You can throw what you want to throw. It makes it easier on your arm and it makes you able to go longer.”
Smith was able to keep his pitch count low by working ahead of hitters and taking advantage of a clean game from his defense.
“I was pitching, hitting my spots and my own players backed me up and made plays behind me,” Smith said. “You just have to have trust in your players to back you up and get the outs. I can’t do it by myself.”
Smith also had plenty of run support, beginning in the third inning when Spencer Reece doubled down the right field line for Adairsville’s first hit of the game. After Blaine Bishop walked, a wild pitch to Tyler Washington moved Reece and Bishop to third and second, respectively, with no outs. Washington came through with runners in scoring position with a single that dropped right in between the Cass second baseman, shortstop and center fielder.
The hit scored Reece, and Bishop would soon follow when Colin Bearden singled up the middle to score the second run of the game. Tristin Smith then hit a single of his own, which loaded the bases and allowed Washington to score later in the frame.
The Tigers would produce another big inning in the fifth. Bishop led off by lining a single to left field and stealing second base. Washington then walked and Bearden followed with a well-executed sacrifice bunt to move Bishop and Washington into scoring position. McDermott came through in the clutch two batters later with a two-run double down the left field line to make the score 5-0.
Roper was pleased with his team’s fifth-inning sequence and the Tigers’ execution offensively and defensively throughout the game.
“I love the guys that are hitting 10-15 home runs a year, but we don’t get that. We get the hardnosed guys and we try to preach the fundamentals and that’s how we played today,” Roper said. “The way we played today, that’s how we practice. We put pressure on the defense, we’re expecting to make plays and, offensively, if we get people on, we’re going to get them over and get them in. Every now and then we’ll get the big hit, but we want to be able to manufacture runs.”
Adairsville would add to its lead in the fifth when Smith singled and Lane Griffith doubled to drive in two runs and make the score 7-0 after five innings.
The Tigers would add three more in the sixth to close the game.
Jordan Reed had the lone hit for Cass, who now moves to 2-6 on the year.
Adairsville had 11 hits in the game. Leadoff hitter Washington went 2-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored in the game. Bishop also scored three runs and went 1-for-1 with two walks as the No. 9 hitter. Griffith went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. Griffith, along with McDermott, were the leaders with three RBIs each. Smith added two hits to go along with his performance on the mound.
The two teams will meet again Thursday at Adairsville at 5:30 p.m.