Seven players for Festus, Mo., Post 253 had hits and pitcher Brendan Smock only allowed two hits over six innings in a 4-1 win over Albuquerque, N.M., Post 13 on Thursday.
Festus broke through in the top of the second. Singles on consecutive pitches by Chuck Pratt and Isack Hamilton brought home Colby Ott and Eddie Martin to give Festus a 2-0 lead.
“I have been going up and looking to hit the ball hard and make solid contact and going up with a smooth swing and it’s been working well,” Hamilton said.
Festus added to the lead in the third when Jake Leitner brought home Levi Ebersoldt on a hard-hit single through the left side.
Smock was dealing for Missouri, getting through the first three innings unscathed, retiring all nine Albuquerque batters.
New Mexico threatened for the first time in the fourth, getting a leadoff single from Marquez Monez and, after a flyout, Benito Garcia was hit by a pitch. Both moved up a base on a wild pitch, setting up two in scoring position with one out. Smock recovered with a strikeout and covered home on a pitch in the dirt that Hamilton blocked and recovered in time to make a toss to Smock at the plate to end the inning.
Jordan Duncan further extended the lead in the fifth inning with an odd trip around the bases. He reached by hitting a line drive off of the runner at first for an out. He then went to second on a wild pitch, stole third and came home on an error on the ensuing throw.
Albuquerque got a run across in the bottom of the fifth on a sharply lined hit to shortstop, but left fielder Colby Ott gunned down a runner trying to advance to third on the play and second baseman Jordan Duncan turned a nice double play to end the threat.
Smock finished with six innings pitched, allowing just two hits and one run, while striking out four.
“I gave up too many free bases but I had my offspeed working and that helped me get through six innings,” Smock said postgame. “My defense has been really good all year. I rely on them a lot since I don’t strike that many out and I pitch to contact. They have helped me out a ton.”
He turned the game over to Duncan to close out the game and the right-hander earned the save to lock down the victory.
For Missouri, it was an ideal start in the state’s first ALWS appearance in 10 years. In that tournament in Fargo, N.D., Smock’s uncle played for Festus.
“He just told me to enjoy the moment and cherish it,” Smock said.
On Friday, New Mexico looks to rebound against 0-1 Danville, Ill., Post 210 at 4 p.m., while Missouri faces Destrehan, La., Post 366 in the 7 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Hamilton seemed confident, saying, “I think if we just play our game and just go out there and have fun we have a pretty good chance of winning this thing.”