A little extra deception in opposing pitcher Darien Smith’s windup kept Archbishop Carroll baseball players guessing at the plate all morning Friday during a 6-0 loss to Jacksonville University Christian.
The Bulldogs mustered only three hits against Smith, a Jacksonville University commit, and none came until the fourth inning of their Class 3A state semifinal defeat at Hammond Stadium.
Archbishop Carroll (26-3), which was making its first appearance at state since 2001, had its 20-game winning streak snapped with the loss.
“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year and feel like we could have played a little bit better,” Carroll coach Andy Blanco said. “[Smith] was totally dominant, and he could throw wherever he wanted and we were chasing.”
Smith, who struck out 12 and walked only one on 93 pitches, said he altered his delivery, adding a slight pause just before his windup.
“I looked at my windup the other day and came to a pause when I got to the top and just held the ball and followed through,” Smith said. “I think that was helping me hide the ball better.”
Carroll’s ace, senior Salvatore Lorenzo-Lugo, finished with eight strikeouts but couldn’t escape a rough first inning that began with University Christian leadoff hitter Cody Melton belting a single to left after a 10-pitch at-bat.
Lorenzo-Lugo had a couple of strikeouts and could have been out of the inning when Melton was caught in a rundown between second and third. But Carroll third baseman Rey Gonce hit Melton with the throw back to second, allowing him to slide back in safely.
University Christian made Carroll pay when Jose Alejandro-Visaez came up with the first of a pair of clutch, two-out hits with two-strike counts in the inning. Visaez doubled to score Melton and give the Christians a 1-0 lead.
After a walk loaded the bases, Dylan Richman singled to right, which coupled with a fielding error by right fielder Austin Capote gave University a 3-0 lead.
Melton got on base in each inning that University scored.
“That leadoff hitter was tough,” Blanco said. “That at-bat to start the game set the tone.”
An errant throw by Lorenzo-Lugo on a pickoff attempt in the fifth made things worse for Carroll, as University Christian added a run on the miscue and then added another on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Connor Johnson to take a 5-0 lead.
Carroll didn’t get a hit off Smith until the fourth when left fielder Jonathan Leon singled to left with two outs. It didn’t amount to anything though as Smith got Chris Fernandez to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Carroll didn’t advance a runner into scoring position until the sixth when Ryan Pereda and Rey Gonce hit back-to-back singles with two outs. But Smith worked his way out of the jam by inducing an inning-ending groundout to third by Leon.
“His breaking pitches were tough,” Lorenzo-Lugo said. “He wouldn’t even throw them for strikes, and we were chasing.”
Leon added: “By the time we adjusted it was too late.”