DENHAM SPRINGS - Denham Springs High School shortstop Reese Smith made this eye-opening revelation about his Louisiana Knights 15U travel baseball team.
“We have not practiced one time,” Smith said. “We all go home and work on your own. You don’t want it if you don’t work on your own.”
The ultra-talented La. Knights, who are based out of Mandeville with 9 Division I commitments from five different states, overcame a near exit after three games in the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association’s World Series to win the better than 300-team event last weekend in Emerson, Ga.
Smith, a UL-Lafayette committed, joined forces with Live Oak’s Rhett Rosevear and Brant Smith to bring home the trophy to Louisiana following a dramatic 10-8 victory over Lecompte, La.-based Sheets Baseball.
“You really don’t know any guys going into it and then you develop these life-long friends throughout the summer,” Rosevear said. “You don’t practice. You go out there and do your thing and hopefully through the summer, the team can bond and create some chemistry. That’s what we did. In the last 10 games we came together and won.”
The last 10 games of the event represented a line of demarcation for the Louisiana Knights, who came perilously close to being eliminated following a 2-1 loss to Excel Blue of Oxford, Ala. on July 16.
“We all thought we were going home,” Brant Smith said. “Once they (Excel Blue) lost, we were told we were going through to the bracket and our mind was set on winning it.”
Following their lone setback of the tournament the La. Knights needed a loss by Excel Blue to advance to bracket play – a scenario that played out in an 8-3 loss to the Rawlings Prospects of Franklin, Tenn.
“We weren’t expecting to lose, we were in shock,” Reese Smith said. “The team we played really wasn’t that good. We beat ourselves up about it and thought we were going home. When we found out they had lost our minds were set on winning the whole thing.”
An 8-2 victory over Team Elite Premier of Winder, Ga. served as the catalyst the Knights needed to make their championship run – a stretch of 10 victories that included two double-digit blowouts and three shutouts.
There were few dramatics in reaching the championship game; a 5-0 quarterfinal win and a 12-1 demolition over the Elite Squad Nationals of Pembroke Pines, Fla. – setting up an all-Louisiana showdown for the national crown.
Brant Smith enjoyed a milestone in the semifinals with a two-run homer – a blast that traveled 375 feet and was the farthest homer that week at the Lake Pointe field and 10th longest in all Perfect Game events.
Sheets Baseball entered the final with an undefeated record, having won 11 games with a lineup that featured three of the tournament’s top 11 hitters, including LSU commitment Brody Drost of Barbe who was named the event’s MVP.
The Knights trailed by two runs on three different occasions, overcoming an early 2-0 deficit in the 1st inning, 7-5 after the 4th and 8-6 following the 6th.
West Monroe’s Josh Pearson helped key the Knights’ resurgence which included a 4-run 7th inning and University High reliever Brock Slaton closed out the 10-8 triumph.
Rosevear, who primarily played third base, went 2-for-4, scored twice and drove in a run in the championship game. Reese Smith went 2-3 with a double, scored twice and had an RBI and Brant Smith added a hit.
“It was exciting to win,” Reese Smith said. “It was an amazing experience. We just played so hard.”
All three players enjoyed individual success led by Reese Smith, who had the tournament’s fifth-highest batting average (.467). He also tied for fourth in hits (14) and drove in 12 runs.
Rosevear batted .371 with a pair of doubles and 6 RBIs and Brant Smith – a first baseman and designated hitter - hit .364 with 14 RBIs – ranking him third overall.
“There’s 326 teams,” Brant Smith. “It was crazy to know out of all those teams we were the best one. That just blew my mind.”