After the completion of Round Three of the Australian Baseball League, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking', the Kentucky native was named Pitcher of the Week for his standout performance on Saturday afternoon against the Canberra Cavalry.
In his first ABL start, the 24-year-old was a "pleasant surprise" for Bandits manager Kevin Jordan when he went six strong innings and struck out nine batters. In Saturday's 1-0 Bandits victory, Smith was even better. The American righty threw a seven-inning complete-game shutout allowing just three hits, walking none, and striking out 12 Cavalry hitters, making him more than deserving of the weekly award.
"I think after last week he got better," Jordan said. "In Sydney there were a couple times Gary [Nilsson, pitching coach] and I talked about some of the pitches he might have thrown in certain counts that he didn't need to.
"I think that he took what he had last week and he condensed it more and was more effective with it. That result was in that seven-inning game he pitched [on Saturday]."
The ABL honour has been bestowed upon Smith in just his second game of the season, two weeks after he threw his first career no-hitter in a Greater Brisbane League game for Pine Hills. So far this year for the Bandits, the young pitcher is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings, walking none and racking up an astonishing 21 strikeouts.
"I had to make the transition from club ball to here," Smith said. "But I think it's just being mentally tough no matter when you pitch. Club ball was good for me too before I came here because they gave me an opportunity to see live hitters."
Pine Hills certainly readied Smith for the professional Australian circuit, as was evident in his first start in Sydney. Smith was even more excited that he could repeat his success and find even more when he returned home.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to throw well at home because these are the people that are going to be following you. You obviously want to do well in front of those people and that's hopefully going to bring out crowds later on. As much as baseball is a sport, it's a business too. Hopefully we can get some fans to come out and keep supporting us."
While the Bandits starter hopes to continue to have support on the mound in Brisbane, he knows that he has plenty back home as well.
"I think my parents were watching at home," he said. "They told me they were going to stay up and watch. They're in Eastern Standard Time so it was about one in the morning but they don't even care, to be honest. They love to sit up and watch me and I'm very fortunate to have a good support system like that back home."
Outside of the three singles that Canberra notched in Saturday's game, Smith only allowed one ball out of the infield. Not only was he fanning batters left and right but he pitched to contact when necessary, he kept his pitch count down and remained remarkably efficient throughout.
"The biggest stat I'm happy with right now is that I haven't walked anybody," Smith said. "Walking people doesn't do anything but cause you trouble. I think club ball did a real good job of getting me ready for games and giving me the ability to use all my pitches."
While Smith effectively mixed in his entire repertoire of pitches against the Cavalry, his go-to pitch and a source of consistency and success for him has been his slider. Though the righty said he might be throwing it a little too much, his skipper is happy with what he's been able to do with the pitch.
"As a pitcher, you work off the hitters," Jordan said. "If the hitters don't make the adjustments then you continue to do what's made you successful. I think the hitters let you know how well you're pitching. So if there comes a time when teams are having success against his pitching style, then he'll have to make an adjustment."
The Canberra hitters certainly were letting Smith know how well he was doing on Saturday afternoon. After the early matchup of the doubleheader, all Cavalry manager Michael Collins could do was give credit where credit was due.
"We've got to tip our hats to Smith I guess," Collins said. "It's not the ideal way to start the day but he pitched a great ballgame. He threw a couple of different pitches for strikes and kept us off-balance. He did a great job."
Smith made the difference in the one-run game, allowing the home team the opportunity to make the most of minimal offence in the matchup.
"It's still early in the year," Smith said. "The hitters are still getting their hacks. They're still getting their reps. The more they get their reps, the better they will come along. When we have practice, they are just crushing balls, so I think our sticks are going to come around and that's going to make pitching easier.
"Sometimes it's fun to pitch in 1-0 games because it really kind of shows what kind of pitcher you're going to be when it's tough situations. Now hopefully KJ and Gary can kind of rely on me sticking in the game instead of folding under pressure. That was good to show for myself but it was also a team effort. And having good defence behind you is always nice."