April 20, 2010 10:16:00 AM
The power of protection is fueling the New Hope High School baseball team.
At the heart of the engine, seniors Davis Lee and Jake Smith are doing all they can to help make sure the Trojans realize their goal of winning a state title this season.
Lee, the No. 3 hitter, and Smith, the cleanup hitter, had stellar performances last week to help the New Hope (19-5) take another step closer toward winning a Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 title.
Lee had four hits in a victory against Oxford, five hits against West Point, and three more against Caledonia, while Smith earned the victory against Oxford in relief and added four hits, including a "bomb" of a home run.
For their accomplishments, Lee and Smith are The Commercial Dispatch Prep Players of the Week.
"I am starting to get my confidence back," Lee said. "I am starting to be more relaxed and it is helping me out."
Said Smith, "(The Oxford game) was probably my best game this year. The whole team has been hitting great. I hope it carries over to the playoffs."
Smith added three hits against West Point. He also came on in relief and was part of the victory against Caledonia.
Lee, Smith, and the rest of the Trojans, who have clinched a spot in the North Half State playoffs, will try to secure the district title at 7 tonight when they play host to Saltillo. The teams have split the first two meetings this season. The winner will earn the right to play host to game one of the opening round of the playoffs.
Not only did Lee and Smith shine last week, but they also have excelled throughout the season. Lee, who joined the baseball team after basketball season, is hitting .440 with 26 RBIs. Smith, a right-handed pitcher who has signed to play baseball at Wallace State (Ala.), is hitting .375 with five home runs and 27 RBIs. He is 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA.
New Hope coach Lee Boyd said both players are part of a lineup that has come together and is delivering from top to bottom.
"I think it has a lot to do with protection, too," Boyd said. "You forget about Brent Younger hitting in the No. 2 hole. They have to throw to Davis because they don''t want to see Jake, so Davis has protection on both sides. Gabe (Franks) is hitting close to .400 behind Jake, so your first four or five guys have protection for each other."
Smith said it is great having Lee hit in front of him. He said Lee''s ability to get on has given him numerous run-producing chances.
Lee said Smith has provided a needed power source that has given New Hope a punch in the middle of the lineup.
"Jake is a great hitter," Lee said. "Whenever he gets his pitch you can tell it is going over. He has a great swing and a lot of power."
Lee also has refined his swing and has become more selective at the plate. Lee and Boyd said plate discipline will be key if they and the rest of their teammates want to continue to deliver at the plate.
"I couldn''t have asked for a better season," Smith said. "My hitting is more surprising to me. I thought I would be average, but I have gotten a whole lot faster and stronger and my hands are quicker and I am recognizing the pitch a lot better."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.