Coastal Carolina Commit Will Smith Dominates At Wilson Premier Classic
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — While many pitchers in the 2019 prep class shut things down as the summer draws to a close, Canes 2019 righthander Will Smith was just getting started.
On Day 3 of the Wilson Premier Classic, Smith, who attends Conway (S.C.) HS, turned in one of the best pitching performances of the tournament, striking out 12 batters over five innings in a shortened game against Houston Heat, which the Canes won 8-0. The win gave the Canes their first of single-elimination bracket play, before winning a second game against San Diego Show later in the afternoon.
“You know, we played them yesterday and we got a feel for them,” Smith said afterwards. “I knew if I attacked the zone, my defense behind me, they were going to make plays. The roster we have is unreal, so if you fill it up you’re going to be successful.”
Downplaying his own performance, Smith might have given his teammates a bit too much credit—which isn't to say they played poorly or aren't talented, with 13 members of this Canes team already committed to Division I programs. But of the 15 outs recorded, only three needed to be converted by anyone other than Smith and his catcher, Alex Milazzo. Just one ball left the infield, a single into left field from outfielder Conner Gilchrest, while two Heat hitters grounded out and one popped out in foul territory.
“I know if I attack with my fastball I can come back with my slider,” Smith said. “I know it breaks a good amount—it’s a very swing-and-miss kind of pitch. If I have both those pitches working, I can mix in the changeup and be successful.”
The two pitches Smith mentioned, his fastball and slider, were the offerings he used primarily, and the former was one of the best fastballs of the tournament in terms of pure velocity.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound righty worked in the 89-91 mph range throughout his five innings on the mound and touched 93 mph at his peak. The pitched showed arm-side run at times, which paired nicely with a slider that ranged from the mid-70s into the low 80s with three-quarter tilt and some occasional late-breaking action down and away from righthanded hitters.
Smith has fairly significant head whack and effort in his delivery, and he spins off to the first-base side in his finish, but he still managed to throw 42 of his 61 pitches for strikes (68.9 percent) without walking a batter.
Working with an up-tempo pace, Smith showed solid feel to spot both pitches for strikes, and as the game progressed he showed no issues dropping the breaking ball in the zone on the first pitch to keep hitters off-balance.
“Every game is different. It just depends on how the game goes," Smith said. "My slider was working early in the game and I kept them honest. And towards the end of the game they were still thinking about that slider so I can come back with the fastball and be successful.”
While Smith had no issues using mostly a fastball-slider combination Sunday, he acknowledged that he would need to further develop his third pitch—a changeup—to have success at the next level.
“(The changeup) does its job right now,” Smith said. “I can get high school hitters out with it, but at the next level I’m going to have to improve it … Before you throw before a game or something like that, just get a feel for it—throw it. Definitely work on it hard (in bullpens). It’s a feel thing. Once you get a feel for it, you have it.”
Smith will get a chance to refine his entire repertoire at Coastal Carolina with pitching coach Drew Thomas, who has helped produce half a dozen Big South pitchers of the year with the Chanticleers. Thomas was also in charge of the pitching staff on the 2016 national championship team that posted a 3.00 ERA during the NCAA Tournament.
“I love Coastal, it’s my hometown,” Smith said. “I’ve grown up a fan. (Thomas) is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. They are a very successful program.”