As Shane Smith prepared for the Maryland 3A baseball championship Friday morning, the Chopticon pitcher imagined himself entering late in the game and closing out a win. Smith is one of the Braves’ top relievers, and that’s the role he has played all season.

But in the first inning, when Chopticon’s starting pitcher walked Atholton’s first two batters and assistant coach David Sapp asked Smith to warm up, the senior realized Friday might be more taxing than he expected.

Atholton plated a pair of runs with no outs in the first, and the bases were loaded when Smith entered. The Raiders didn’t score again. Chopticon’s offense supported Smith, and the Braves won, 4-2, at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf for their first state title since 2015.

“No matter how many runs we get scored on,” Smith said, “we’re a team that can fight through it all and fight back.”

Atholton’s two runs came on walks, and before an out was recorded Atholton’s fans chanted goodbye to Chopticon’s starting pitcher. After Smith escaped the frame, it didn’t take long for the Braves (13-1) to even the score. Chopticon scored 10 or more runs in nine games this season.

After right fielder Shawn Cameron drove in a run in the bottom of the first, center fielder Demetri Jamison knocked an RBI triple to right field.

“Once we scored those two, it was game over,” left fielder Philip McCarthy said. “We won. They knew our bats were going to outhit them.”

Chopticon took a 3-2 lead in the second when catcher Brandon Mills hit an RBI single. A walk in the fifth extended the Braves’ edge to two.

Smith said he has thrown seven innings once in his life, but he jogged onto the mound for the seventh. Atholton (12-4) loaded the bases with one out. Smith also entered with the bases loaded in Chopticon’s 12-10 win over Towson in the state quarterfinals Monday, and he permitted only one run.

Remembering his composure from that moment, Smith induced flyouts from the next two Atholton batters to end the game.

“We lost our junior years [because of the coronavirus pandemic] and had one shot at it,” Cameron said. “We got it done.”

Afterward, Smith raised a WWE championship belt with a “C” in the middle toward Chopticon’s fans. Smith had dreamed of winning a state title with Chopticon since he started playing baseball as a 5-year-old.

“I can’t even describe the joy right now,” Smith said. “I saw what they did in 2015, and I just wanted to match that.”

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