HAMMOND | All told, 26 batters were struck out in Saturday's 3A sectional final.
When the dust settled, Jesse Smith and Griffith got the best of Enrique Zamora and Clark 4-0.
"It's a sectional championship game," Smith said. "I wanted the ball. I wanted to get the win today very bad."
The Panthers junior contributed 14 of those K's in a complete game, three-hit performance. The decision to start Smith wasn't even finalized until Saturday.
"(Smith) is stubborn in a good way and he wanted the baseball (Saturday)," Griffith coach Brian Jennings said. "After about five days of discussion, we opted to go with Jesse."
Jennings and his staff felt that Smith's off-speed pitches would counter the Pioneer hitters' bats. Smith said he was just trying to throw strikes.
"The curveball was working really well and the fastball started to come around after a couple innings," Smith said. "I thought I'd get a lot of ground balls if I hit my spots, but a lot of strikeouts."
The Pioneers came into the game having won four consecutive sectional championships. It was the first trophy for Griffith since 2007.
"We were trying everything we could (to get to Smith)," Clark coach Chris Moore said. "Everything was going right for him. He was getting ahead on our guys, his off-speed was for strikes and he just made it tough on us all day."
For Clark (15-9), Zamora struck out 12 himself, also pitching seven innings. The Pioneers hurler gave up four runs (two earned), though.
"We beat a good team and Enrique (Zamora) is a good pitcher," Jennings said. "He's a horse and for us to come out today and put four on him, that's a big deal."
Griffith (17-14) put three runs on the board in the third inning. Brandon Garcia got things started with a double and Garrett Litke had an RBI single. Litke scored on Smith's sacrifice.
"I knew once we got the lead, we were in good shape," Jennings said. "I wanted to come out early and get runs early and take (Clark) out of the game emotionally because they're a team that lives and dies on emotion."
The Panthers' final tally came Austin Brown singled in Matthew Colomes in the next frame.
Clark had trouble stinging hits together.
"We couldn't get anything back-to-back," Moore said. "They had timely hits and that's the difference. We just didn't get that today from our side."