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Nolan Smith wins 2024 Sunset League Home Run Derby

The sounds of bats cracking could be heard all the way from the In-N-Out across from the Cougar Baseball Complex at Azusa Pacific University, where the Sunset Baseball League held its 2024 home run derby prior to its all-star game. 


All six Sunset League teams picked one player to represent them in the contest. 

In the first round, all six hitters would take 10 swings, with the top hitter advancing to the finals and the next two best hitters moving into a five-swing playoff. 


Jake Daily, Nolan Smith, and Danny Rodriguez all swatted three home runs, creating a first-place tie. Since Rodriguez was the top seed, he moved on to the final, while Daily and Smith had five swings to barrel their way to the final.  


Daily, a right-handed hitter smoked hard line drives high up into the left field net. Smith, another right-handed hitter, demolished baseballs high over the left field net with some shots measuring around 400 feet. 


Rodriguez, the only left-handed hitter, crushed balls way above the short porch in right, with many of his balls landing in the In-N-Out parking lot. 


As the lower-seeded hitter, Smith went first in the final round. Exhaustion from taking so many swings with limited breaks along with the heat made it very hard for Smith to find the energy to replicate his power surges from the previous rounds, and he only hit one home run. 


“I felt pretty good, I got to take some pretty good swings early on in the beginning, but I got pretty worn out in the championship round,” Smith said. 


Rodriguez came to the plate only having to hit two home runs to win, but the rest of the time had an adverse effect on him, and he struggled mightily. 


Through nine swings he only had one home run and on the last swing, he struck off the top of the fence, meaning the contest would go to a five-swing overtime to determine the winner. 


Smith again went first, but this time he was well rested. With the much-needed rest, Smith knew he was capable of sealing the victory. 


“I was able to sit for a second, collect myself, and get my swing back together and I definitely felt like I could put some really good swings on” once I got my time to relax,” Smith said with a smile. 


In the overtime round, Smith sent two moonshots to the top of the left-field net to give himself a comfortable lead. 


Rodriguez could not regain his early momentum and failed to hit a single home run in the final round, making Nolan Smith the 2024 Sunset League Home Run Derby champion.

Smith's performance impressed a lot of people including his all-star coach.


"Nolan was really impressive. I did not see that coming from him and he definitely convinced everyone that he has a ton of pop," said all-star head coach Dylan Hoffman.

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