Barbe (La.) High is becoming quite the pipeline for the Ole Miss baseball team.
In addition to rising junior center fielder Tanner Mathis and 2012 commitment Gavin Cecchini, the most recent standout from Barbe to sign with Ole Miss is Sam Smith, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander from the Lake Charles-based school.
This summer Smith, who signed with Ole Miss in April and will start school this fall, spent a bulk of the summer getting to know 2012 Ole Miss verbal commitments Stryker Trahan and Cameron Dishon — in addition to Cecchini — while playing for the Texas Sun Devils travel baseball team.
His summer with the Sun Devils came to an end just over a week ago at the World Wood Bat Association National Championships in Marietta, Ga.
“It went well. We played well all summer, but when we got to Georgia, we struggled in our first game but did well after that. I pitched well,” he said. “I threw six innings in Atlanta, gave up one unearned run, had five strikeouts, no walks and I touched 92 (miles-per-hour), so I did pretty well.”
Smith said he enjoyed his summer, getting to know his future teammates.
“It was great,” he said. “I’d met Ty (Hensley) before and been playing with Gavin, Stryker and Cameron for years. They’re great guys. It’s cool having four future Rebels playing on the same team. It’s great playing with those guys.
“I look forward to playing with them again.”
Smith said this summer could also pay dividends in the future when his Sun Devil teammates arrive in Oxford.
“No doubt. When you’re on the road together for weeks at a time you get to know guys and get comfortable with them and know how they play and pick them up, stuff like that,” he said. “We really developed a friendship.”
One teammate Smith mentioned that isn’t a Rebel verbal commitment is Hensley, the big-time right-hander from Edmond, Okla., who has been mentioned more than once in The EAGLE.
Smith said Hensley, who has Ole Miss amongst his finalists with Arizona State and Arkansas, was continually being recruited and, should he choose the Rebels, be a welcomed addition.
“The Cecchinis are always on him, man. They’re always talking about Ole Miss. It was pretty funny to see that,” Smith said. “He’s a great player. He’s a big, strong power guy that really dominates the opposing team. He’s a great guy.
“He throws the ball with great stuff, a lightning arm.”
After pitching nearly non-stop from the beginning of his senior campaign at Barbe High, Smith said he’s going to take a break for a bit.
“I’ve pretty much been throwing since the middle of January, so I’m going to give my arm a rest after last week when we finished the 18-year-old tournament,” he said. “I’m going to let my arm rest for a couple of weeks and then pick the ball back up Aug. 1 and get back to it.”
Attacking the hitter
When on the mound, Smith takes an aggressive approach to pitching.
“I pretty much throw off of my fastball. I get ahead of people and throw a lot of strikes. My offspeed could use some work but I have a decent slider and my changeup can be pretty good at times. I throw a lot of strikes and let people get themselves out,” he said. “I was sitting 88-90 (miles-per-hour) and touched 91. This summer I got up to 92, which was a max for me.”
Smith uses two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a changeup, a slider and a curveball.
Despite a wide array of pitches, Smith admitted he still has work to do “spotting up and learning to pitch in certain situations and develop my offspeed more.”
Smith said he’s unsure how he’ll be used once he arrives on campus.
“I guess it pretty much depends on how I do in the fall, but I’m just going to work hard and they’ll put me wherever I’m needed,” he said. “I’ll take whatever role to help the team out.”
Smith expects to arrive in Oxford on Aug. 17 and take part in delayed orientation. (July 20, 2011, Page 6A)