East Xtra: Smith ends strong career at Penn-Trafford

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Ron Evans has been filling out lineup cards for 26 years as head coach at Penn-Trafford.

In that time, it was inevitable that he was going to come across some major league-worthy talent. But, he said, no one whose names he has put on those cards has came close to the talent possessed by Tyler Smith.

"I have been coaching here 26 years and he is the most dominant pitcher I have had," Evans said. "That says a lot for him. I never felt so confident with anybody on the mound. I feel bad we didn't score runs for him [Friday]."

Last Friday was the final time Evans would fill out a lineup card with Smith's name on it. With Smith on the mound, the Warriors lost to Mt. Lebanon, 4-0, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

"I believe that Tyler is one of the best pitchers in the WPIAL," Evans said. "He had 12 strikeouts. We misplayed a couple of balls. He struck out five out of the first six batters. We were going as far as Tyler took us. It was a great pitcher's duel. It is kind of tough.

"He gives 110 percent out there. He finished the year with 70 some strikeouts, which is phenomenal in Quad-A baseball. He was getting tired toward the end. I didn't want to take him out, but I had to."

Not only is Smith one of the best pitchers in the WPIAL, he is not too shabby with the bat either. He finished the regular season with a .516 batting average and was fourth in the district with five home runs and second with 35 RBIs while playing at third base as well as pitcher.

"We try to put some good hitters in front of him," Evans said. "I jumped Tyler around between 3 and 4 to find a good spot for him. I felt batting him fourth was a better chance for him to get RBIs. His teammates did a great job of getting on base for him. He only struck out a handful of times and he was a threat to go deep."

On the mound, Smith finished with a 6-3 record, including the playoff loss and finished the regular season fifth in the WPIAL with 66 strikeouts. Smith had a fastball that clocked out at 92 mph against Greater Latrobe and showed enough confidence to get any hitter out with his hard slider.

"Any game he pitched we felt we could win, if we scored a couple of runs," Evans said. "He is overpowering and has a good slider.

"I think Tyler has so much confidence. He pitched against some good hitters this year. When Tyler takes the mound, he has enough confidence and he believes he can win any game. He wasn't afraid to overpower someone with the fastball."

Throughout his career it seemed like Smith had a game to remember every time he crossed the white lines, but nothing compared to April 10 of this year when he led the Warriors to a 13-2 victory against section rival Hempfield Area, a team that was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA by the Post-Gazette at that time.

Smith went 3 for 3 with a double, home run and five RBIs. He also picked up the win on the mound, going all five innings [the game was shortened by the 10-run mercy rule], giving up two hits and striking out 10.

"He just came out and shut them down," Evans said. "He had a great game against them."

Smith will look to make new memories at the collegiate level next year. Smith received a scholarship to play baseball at Canisius College, an NCAA Division I program in Buffalo, N.Y. The Golden Griffins compete in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference.

"I think he will step right in and pitch for them," Evans said. "He is going to play both sides. He is a great third baseman. When he pitches, it hurts us at third base. He can play and he can hit. He is a great hitter. He is a great kid. That helps out even more.

"He hurt his elbow last year and a couple [college] coaches went away from him. I'm sure a lot of schools are kicking themselves. He is going for business and finance. I can't wait to follow him and see how he does."

Smith will have one more opportunity to don his Warriors uniform as he will be one of two representatives for the school in the WPIAL All-Star Game June 8 at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler.

As always, Smith will play his last high school baseball game like the rest -- to the last out.

"He was chosen in the WPIAL All-Star Game as a third baseman," Evans said. "Hopefully, he will get on the mound. I will be there and I would like to see him pitch.

"I told him you have to play this game like it is your last game and that's what he does. He plays to the last out. He is the team captain. We are going to miss him."

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