When Jordan Smith stepped on the mound Thursday afternoon in the middle of the Marcellus baseball team's battle with Clinton in the Section III Class B final at Alliance Bank Stadium, it was the first time he had pitched since May 11 - a span of more than three weeks.
"We didn't know what we were getting," said head coach Pete Birmingham.
But the left-hander was ready, both with his arm and with his bat, and that helped the Mustangs rally past the Warriors 11-4 to earn the program's first-ever trip to the state tournament.
Smith said that, as good as his team was from the start of the season, it wasn't until the Mustangs stunned two-time defending state champion Westhill 3-0 in the B-1 semifinal on May 28 that "we really thought that it could happen."
"It," of course, was a sectional title, and Marcellus took care of the first part Monday by topping Watertown IHC 7-2 in the B-1 final at DeLutis Field in Rome behind Phil Zdanowski's complete-game effort.
Now came the overall sectional final against Clinton, the newly-minted B-2 champions, and the Mustangs started Tim Schneider, 6-0 on the season and the pitching hero of the Westhill shocker, against the Warriors' Rob Hardy, going on three days' rest after he shut out Ilion 6-0 in the B-2 final.
Even as Marcellus went to an early 2-0 lead, though, Schneider struggled to find his rhythm in what Birmingham called his most difficult outing of the season. Thus, after Clinton tied it 2-2 and put two runners on base in the bottom of the fourth, Smith replaced Schneider - and promptly gave up a double to Joe Durant that put the Warriors in front 4-2.
Atonement would come quickly, though. In the top of the fifth, Nick Sinay drew a four-pitch walk and, with one out, Smith stepped up to the plate. Seeing what he could a fastball right down the middle, Smith belted it over the right-field fence, a two-run home run that tied it 4-4 - and all with the same broken bone in his hand, not fully healed.