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BACK IN BUSINESS: Cathedral advances to MHSAA Class 1A South State series

Cathedral High School’s Gabe Smith pitches the ball against Sacred Heart High School in game three of third round of the MHSAA Class 1A state baseball tournament. Smith was the winning pitcher shutting out Sacred Heart 11-0. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral High School’s Gabe Smith pitches the ball against Sacred Heart High School in game three of third round of the MHSAA Class 1A state baseball tournament. Smith was the winning pitcher shutting out Sacred Heart 11-0. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Gabe Smith lives for high-pressured moments. So when he took the mound for the (21-4) Cathedral Green Wave in Game 3 of a best-of-three series against Sacred Heart, Smith — bad back and all — relished the moment.

In an 11-0, five-inning victory Friday night, Smith’s back didn’t break, as he gladly willed his team to victory on the mound.

“There’s never a situation that’s too big for him,” Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said. “Gabe has really established himself for us this year. He has been battling a back problem all year long, but he’s tough. There’s no way I could take him out. He was getting ahead in the count, and he’s one of those pitchers that just gets people out.”

Smith — not regarded as a strikeout pitcher — continued to get groundout after groundout, allowing only one hit and totaling three strikeouts in five innings pitched. Smith, who saw limited action last season as a reliever, walked two of the first batters he faced in the top of the first. And though his back was aching him throughout the contest, Smith said there was no way he was going to give up the opportunity of competing at this stage.

“I tell all the coaches, I’ll pitch until they have to roll me off the field,” Smith said.

While Smith rendered Sacred Heart scoreless, the Cathedral Green Wave offense came alive in the second inning.

Quinton Logan, who was coming off of a 4-4 outing Thursday night, led the inning off with a double and Pate Shirley followed with another. Brock Farmer moved the runners over with a sacrifice, and Reed White put the first score on the board with an RBI single. Smith followed with a single, and J.J. Jenkins ripped a double to put Cathedral up 4-0. The Green Wave were only getting started, though. Andrew Beesley hit an RBI single and an error behind him gave Cathedral a 6-0 lead. Cathedral batted around, and Logan put an exclamation point on the inning with an RBI triple. The seven-hit, eight-run inning was a culmination of what Beesley had been searching for.

“I would say this is the best execution offensively that we’ve had in the playoffs,” Beesley said. “We hit the ball well (Thursday) night, but we weren’t getting the timely hits. Tonight, especially in that inning, we were hitting the ball, playing small ball and executing.”

White led off the third inning with a single. Gabe Smith got on base with an error before Jenkins drew a walk. Beesley hit an RBI single before Bradley and Zach Flattmann followed with sacrifice fly’s to extend Cathedral’s lead to 11-0.

Cathedral’s victory advances the Green Wave to the semifinals, where Stringer will play host in Game 1 and a potential Game 3. The series will begin next week, and time and dates are still to be determined.