Nobody welcomed the rain delay in the middle of the Smoky Mountain Classic Home Run Derby’s first round more than Freddy Arwood.
Arwood, representing MasterCraft in the 51st annual Smoky Mountain Classic, was drained from successfully defending his title in the local derby with 17 total home runs — including four in the final round and two in a five-swing swing-off with teammate Will Ervin — but a scattered thunderstorm provided the rest he needed.
He hit six home runs in the first round of the main event derby, consisting of some of the premier softball players in the country, to cruise into the second round before getting eliminated after hitting four bombs, one short of advancing to the third round.
TDB’s Andy Purcell won the main event, knocking off defending champion Kyle Pearson of Resmondo in a sudden death playoff.
“The break was tremendous,” Arwood told The Daily Times. “I thought it would be bad because I was worried I would stiffen up, but it really helped.”
Ervin didn’t have the same luck, but he managed to overcome the hurdle put in front of him.
He was one of the few batters who took their cuts before lightning delayed the event and had to battle a strong gust blowing in from centerfield. He hit three home runs and advanced to the second round by hitting four home runs during a swing-off.
“It didn’t really affect me too much,” Ervin said. “You kind of just lock in and deal with the conditions. It was a lot of fun regardless of the weather.”
Ervin, Arwood and their teammate, Travis Brummitt, all advanced to the main event after reaching the finals in the local derby. Ervin hit 17 home runs, hitting one less in the deciding swing-off to finish runner-up. Brummitt launched 10 out of the park to finish third.
Josh Moses threw every pitch to all three, logging roughly 150 tosses through both events.
“I enjoyed battling with them a lot,” Ervin said. “There were people making jokes that we should just split the title because we’re teammates, but we’re too competitive to let that happen. We wanted it to go down to the end.”
It did, and it ended with the same result as last year’s local derby — with Arwood taking the throne as the best slugger in Blount County.
“It feels pretty good,” Arwood said. “I was nervous getting here, and then once I got here I calmed down a little bit. The first couple of rounds I was working on getting loose and, once I did, I got going a little bit.”
Together, the trio put forth a strong performance that showcased the talent in the area.
The hope is that they can continue to make some noise today at 8 p.m. in MasterCraft’s opening game in the Smoky Mountain Classic against California’s Dan Smith at Sandy Springs Park.
“This is a big deal to us — it may not seem like a big deal to some, but to us it is,” Arwood said. “Just taking the field with these guys and showing that there is some good local talent around, it’s a big deal and I really appreciate Chris Clark for all he does for this tournament.”