'I WISH I DID MORE': Smith's last big swing at Piedmont not enough as Bulldogs fall in Game 3

·4 min read

May 14—PHIL CAMPBELL — Sean Smith finished his high school sports career Friday, and he finished as one of Calhoun County's more decorated athletes.

Why?

It's all in his answer, after Piedmont fell 12-2 to Phil Campbell in Game 3 of their Class 3A semifinal baseball series Friday.

"I wish I did more," the tearful three-sport standout said. "Every day I try my best to work my tail off and be the best athlete I can be and be the best winner I can be."

Smith hit a two-run home run in the first inning to account for Piedmont's run output Friday, but Phil Campbell answered with six runs and went on to win in six innings. This after the Bobcats and Bulldogs split Thursday, with Phil Campbell winning 13-0 and Piedmont rallying from behind twice to win Game 2 7-6.

Phil Campbell (38-5) advanced to advanced to the 3A final series against the Bayside Academy-Providence Christian winner.

Piedmont finished 34-7 in a season that saw the Bulldogs win their ninth consecutive area title and their second consecutive Calhoun County title. They reached also mounted a 16-game winning streak.

With Bayside Academy and Providence Christian playing in the other 3A semifinal, the Bulldogs made it to the de facto public-school championship ... a battle of 3A's Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the season's final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.

"That's the best team we've played all year, from top to bottom," Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said. "That includes all of the 6As, 7A schools.

"There's a couple of teams we played that maybe had deeper pitching staffs, but hitting wise, one through nine, bar none the best team we've played all year."

Piedmont came in with several injuries, some minor and some not.

Pitcher/outfielder Austin Estes suffered what Deerman called a strained ulner collateral ligament in the quarterfinal series against Winfield and could not pitch against Phil Campbell. He gave it a go in center field Friday and wound up making underhanded throws in Game 2.

Piedmont went with normal infielder Max Hanson in center field Friday, and Estes served as designated hitter for starting pitcher Noah Reedy. Reedy, who started at third base Thursday's Game 1 but didn't play in Game 2, couldn't bat because of a broken wrist on his glove hand.

"Everybody on the team is banged up somehow, but you can't make excuses in games like this," Smith said. "It's a tough way to go out."

The ball found Piedmont's patchwork quickly Friday as Hanson dropped Mason Swinney's one-out fly ball in the first inning. Three walks, two wild pitches and catcher Jack Hayes' throwing error helped Phil Campbell's six-run rally to take the lead.

The Bobcats also got RBI singles from Ridge Raper and Bryant Anthony.

Hanson's catch at the right-center-field wall ended the at bat.

"Omar (Foster) stepped up and played a good shortstop, but we had guys that were having to do things that they hadn't had to do all year," Deerman said. "I'm proud to be their coach, the way they responded to the adversity that was placed in front of them."

Friday's game marked the last at Piedmont for Smith, Jakari Foster and Jadon Calhoun, all seniors and multisport players. All three played football, basketball and baseball at Piedmont, Calhoun doing so in his lone year of eligibility at Piedmont after transferring from Weaver.

All three were all-state selections in football, Smith and Foster multiple times. Smith was a three-time ASWA 3A lineman-of-the-year finalist in football.

Smith and Foster celebrated signings, Smith with Wallace State in baseball and Foster with North Alabama in football, during Wednesday's ceremony at school. They were part of a state-championship football team in 2019 and runner-up finishes in football (2018) and baseball (2019).

Smith's work doubling as a tight end in the 2019 3A football final keyed Piedmont's comeback from a 10-0 halftime deficit to beat Mobile Christian. Foster, a defensive back who also played wide receiver when needed, caught the winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds to play.

Piedmont's 2020 baseball team was 15-0 and had just won its first-ever county title when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Alabama State Department of Education to shutdown in-person learning and extra-curricular activities.

"At the end of the day, I'll probably look back on this, 10 or 15 years from now, and be proud of myself, but I'm still going to regret not working as hard as I probably should have," Smith said. You can always work harder, and stuff, and I've got to find a way to do that before I go off to school.

"If I don't, I'll be sitting my butt on the bench for two years."

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.