Super Charger: Smith garners no-hitter in second start
By John Davis
There wasn’t much time for Tyler Smith to prepare for his outstanding start on the mound this past Wednesday. The Oxford High junior recorded a no-hitter in the Chargers’ 11-1 win over Lake Cormorant. Smith got the nod on the mound, his second of the year, after OHS coach Chris Baughman told him that Duncan Graeber had a broken hand and was unable to go.
“He stepped right in and threw the ball great,” Baughman said of Smith, who has a 0.57 ERA on the season after his latest outing. “It was a 6 o’clock game and I think I texted him about 4:30 and told him he was starting. He didn’t have much time to get ready but he did what I expect all of our guys to do. And they have done it all year.”
Baughman may have expected Smith to do his best but getting a no-hitter as a result was completely different. Smith has four appearances on the mound heading into the start of division play, and two starts under his belt. Baughman feels like he can put him into the game anywhere.
“He’s a big kid who came into our program two years ago. He wasn’t very strong as a freshman but he’s worked and we’re still trying to get him stronger in the weight room,” Baughman said. “He’s got a big arm and the potential to be a high velocity guy before he leaves. He was much better at spotting his fastball this second start. I thought his changeup was better a couple of weeks ago in Pearl when we played in the Mid-Mississippi Classic. Even though his changeup wasn’t as good, he controlled both sides of the plate and he had enough of a breaking pitch to keep them off balance and keep them guessing.”
Smith has gone from being nervous on his first start to a no-hitter, and that transformation is a credit to his focus.
“I really wanted to get ahead of hitters, throw strikes and stay focused because that has been a problem for me in the past,” Smith said. “Once I got that going, I got help from the defense.”
Another key to the great start, and not giving up a hit, was not walking Gator batters, Smith said.
The curveball proved to be the pitch Smith used along with his fastball to get batters out. He changed the grip on the curve, and that bailed him out of some situations late in the game.
“I felt like I got better as the game went on. There was one inning where I didn’t get ahead of a couple of hitters but I ended up working out of it,” Smith said, adding he was a pitch-to-contact type guy. “There are times where I try to blow it by people but when the situation calls for it, I’ll pitch to contact and try to get the outs when we need them. I feel like I have the capability of striking out people but I also the defense behind me that can help me out. I trust my teammates to get the outs.”
Smith didn’t realize that he had a no-hitter going until the third or fourth inning. At that point, his focus was just the next pitch as opposed to keeping the no-hit bid going.
The Chargers are deep again on the mound, even with the graduation of Jason Barber and Houston Roth. Smith was looking to fit in somewhere in the rotation that is led by Carson Stinnett.
“We have some much depth and you’re not given anything on this team. You have to earn everything so I knew I was going to be four or five pitching wise, maybe two or three,” Smith said. “Parker (Stinnett) has pitched really well. He’s been really consistent to where he could be the No. 3. It’s whoever is feeling it that day. I can come on in relief or start. I do like to get my body fully warm and have an hour or so to prepare for the start instead of being in the dugout and being told to start warming up.”
One of Smith’s biggest fans is his father Mike, who coaches softball at Ole Miss. Smith’s father was a pitcher before he got into coaching, and he threw several one hitters.
“He’s been a great help to me this year. He’s been a mentor when he’s at home and when he can help out,” Smith said. “He’s been awesome this year. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 3 or 4. I’ve been thrown into football but I feel like baseball is where I need to be.”