GRIFFITH | Jesse Smith was the perfect pick to start Saturday's sectional title game against Clark, because the Griffith senior had topped the Pioneers last year in the championship game.
That made Smith's shutout in a sectional title game his second straight as he struck out nine over five innings of two-hit ball in Griffith's 10-0 win over Clark.
"Before the game, Coach (Brian) Jennings told us not to take any team too lightly," Smith said. "Clark is a good team. We remembered them from last year. I thought their pitcher threw pretty well, but we had to take advantage of what we could.
"I think my curve felt great today and I pitched well. My arm was a little stiff, but my offspeed worked really well. My catcher, Kyle Buikema, called a great game."
Clark's only two hits came from freshman catcher Zach Bucsko, who was 2-for-2.
Smith was backed up offensively by a 10-hit performance from the Panthers. :eadoff man Brett Brinkley was 3-for-3 and No. 9 hitter Robert Hernandez was 2-for-3.
"We wanted to take (Clark) out of the game emotionally," Griffith coach Brian Jennings said. "We moved (Joshua) Terzarial to the two-hole about a week, week-and-a-half ago and our guys at No. 8 and No. 9 are seeing fastballs. When you can put the bottom of the order on base with Brinkley, Terzarial and hopefully Smith up soon, that's a big help."
The Panthers also took advantage of six Clark errors. The Pioneers (8-18) have one senior on their roster, and two players who entered the year with varsity experience.
Of the nine runs credited to Clark starter Dillon Slowiak, two were unearned and three advanced at least one base via error.
"That's our story on him the entire season, we gave up a lot of runs and only half of them are earned," Pioneers coach Chris Moore said. "The first and second innings were tough on him and then he settled down. We didn't play great defense behind him, and we've seen that plenty of times this season."
Griffith advances to play Andrean at noon in the Plymouth Regional. The Panthers beat the Niners in the regional semifinal last season.