MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Things didn't quite go as planned for Solon (Ohio) High lefthander Matt Smoral in his first game of the season.
Pitching in a spring break tournament March 26 against Westerville (Ohio) Central High at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Smoral didn't get hit hard but battled his control due to a couple of blisters flaring up on his middle finger. Over 3 1/3 innings before being pulled, he gave up three hits, walked five and struck out five.
"From the very beginning, I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, even in the bullpen," Smoral said. "My arm didn't feel that great, but it was a matter of making adjustments. The first inning I went out there and it was good and then the second inning I went out there and pounded the outside corner, but I didn't make that adjustment and didn't get inside on those guys and didn't get to where I could use my secondary pitches a lot and take advantage of those."
With about 30 crosscheckers and scouting directors on hand, Smoral sat in the 89-91 mph range with his fastball. His lack of control didn't allow him to get into his secondary pitches much. Of his 74 pitches on the day, 61 of them were fastballs. His slider wasn't as sharp as it's been in the past, sitting in the 81-82 mph range and he only threw one changeup.
This offseason, Smoral worked to get stronger and improve his secondary pitches. He did some of his training in Houston with David Evans, who was a sixth-round pick by the Mariners in 1989 and spent 11 years in professional baseball. Now he conducts pitching lessons and coaches for the Houston Heat travel team.
"The biggest thing this offseason was I wanted to get stronger and get my body in the best possible shape I could," Smoral said. "I came out very confident and I really felt good about my mechanics and stuff. I felt really good about what I did this offseason and preparing mentally, as well."
Smoral said he worked to use his legs more in his delivery and focused on not letting his hips leak open early to get the most out of his size. It was during his training last year when he met a new friend in fellow gargantuan pitching prospect Mitchell Traver from Houston Christian High.
"We met the first time I went down to Houston, which was about a year and a half ago, last February," Smoral said. "Then we saw each other a lot last summer at the showcases and I started to develop a friendship with him. I went back down to Houston in December and stayed at his house. Ever since then, we've been real close friends. We talk after each one of our starts and it's good to have a guy you can relate with and a real good friend who also knows a lot about pitching."
Below is a video of Smoral's outing today. . .
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