Wednesday, May 13, 2015

White Sox top catching prospect Kevan Smith gives Knights walk-off win

Kevan Smith is his own biggest critic. 

After leading the Knights to their third walk-off win of the season with a bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave Charlotte a 5-4 win over the Louisville Bats in front of 9,601 at BB&T Ballpark on Wednesday, the Knights' catcher was still steaming over a failed attempt at a sacrifice bunt the inning before. 

"Smitty" as he's referred to by his teammates, tried and failed on three straight attempts (he fouled off an attempt with two strikes) to sacrifice runners to second and third with no outs and the Knights trailing by two in the bottom of the ninth inning. 

Thankfully, the former University of Pittsburg quarterback was picked up by a Jason Coats game-tying two-run single later in the inning to force extra innings. 

An inning later, Smith watched from the on-deck circle as Matt Tuiasosopo was intentionally walked with runners on first and third and none out to load the bases. 

The first pitch from Bats' reliever Sam LeCure (0-2) was a slow curve that Smith -- who was looking for something he could get up in the air to score the run -- took for a strike. LeCure followed that with two straight fastballs out of the zone before running the count to 2-and-2. 

Again LeCure came with the hook in hopes of the strikeout, but Smith laid off to run the count full. 

"I knew he obviously had to throw a strike and I was just thinking about getting the barrel on something and hitting the ball hard somewhere," said Smith. "Luckily, I won that battle." 

The ringing single down the left-field line secured the Knights' season-best fifth win in a row and moved them back into sole possession of first place in the International League for the moment, with the Durham Bulls scheduled to play later on Wednesday. 

"Oh man, I've been good with my sacrifice bunts (before today). That's one of the biggest things to me at this point, just because that's a team at-bat right there and that's something that I need to get down. No excuses, but (Nate Adcock) was throwing 96 (mph) with really good sink and cut. I just tried to bear down when I got two strikes, but ended up fouling it off. Thankfully, we have guys in this lineup that you can rely on hitting behind you and they picked me up like I did get that bunt down. It takes stress off me, but that's the funny thing about baseball, you can fail one time, but you just have to keep your head on straight because look at the situation I was put in that next inning. You know, things worked out." -- Knights' catcher Kevan Smith.  

Worth mentioning
Knights’ starting pitching has dominated the Bats over the teams' first three meetings this season. Kyle Drabek (5IP, 1H, 0R), Chris Beck (6IP, 1H, 0R) and Junior Guerra (6IP, 5H, 2R) have combined to toss 17 innings in the series, while allowing just two runs and striking out 18. … The win extended the Knights' winning streak to a season-best five games, passing a four-game run they put together from April 15-18. The Knights last won five-straight back on July 21-25 in 2014. … The walk-off win improved Charlotte to 12-6 at BB&T Ballpark this season and was the third of their young season. Charlotte had just four total walk-offs in all 2014. 

What's next?
The Knights (19-13) will play the final game of their four-game series with the Bats (13-20) on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at BB&T Ballpark. RHP Brad Penny (2-3, 6.17) will take the mound for the Knights against Bats’ LHP David Holmberg (1-3 6.44).