BLOG: After losing their entire weekend rotation to the MLB Draft, the Ole Miss baseball program can use all of the arms it can get.
Several big-name pitchers from Ole Miss’ 2011 signing class have already arrived on campus (Biloxi’s Hawtin Buchanan, Madison Central’s Josh Laxer).
Another high-profile signee from the 2010 class, Casey Mulholland, is expected to arrive in Oxford in August after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery this past season in Florida.
One arm that has flown under the radar is Barbe (La.) right-handed pitcher Sam Smith.
In Today’s EAGLE is a write-up on Smith, who was a somewhat of a late signee having signed with Ole Miss in April.
Smith spent the majority of the summer playing with fellow future Rebels Gavin Cecchini, Striker Trahan and Cameron Dishon on the Texas Sun Devils travel baseball team. Also on the team was top-recruit Ty Hensley.
Smith said he got a laugh out of the full-court press the Cecchinis were putting on Hensley.
“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.”
HOLDING OUT HOPE: Smith said he felt fortunate he landed with the Rebels. Smith said schools like UL-Lafayette and others had recruited him early on, but they had set early deadlines for earning his verbal commitment and he wanted to wait out the season to see if a bigger offer came along.
The waiting paid off.
“(Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Carl) Lafferty came down to see Gavin in late February and (Barbe) coach Glenn Cecchini told him about me and how I was waiting for a big D-1 school because that’s where I wanted to go,” Smith said. “He saw me that day and I pitched pretty well and they started recruiting me after that and came down a couple more times and I did well and they liked me. I came up on a visit and that was it.”
Looking back, Smith, who is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and hit 92 miles-per-hour this summer, said the interest from was a pleasant surprise.
“Ole Miss is of course a great school and everything but I wasn’t expecting them because I hadn’t been recruited by them at all,” he said. “I was really surprised and excited. I talked to (Lafferty) after the game and I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when they started recruiting me.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Smith will be the second Barbe alum on Ole Miss’ roster this spring, joining rising junior center fielder Tanner Mathis.
“Just going to Oxford, it really wouldn’t have mattered,” Smith said. “It’s a plus to know someone and he was a good source — he told me everything I needed to know from a player’s point of view and I can really trust him — but from what I saw in Oxford, it was pretty much a no-brainer. I knew what I wanted.”
As a senior at Barbe, Smith posted a 5-1 record. (July 20, 2011)