Connect with us


TOMMY 200: Clarion-Limestone Senior Pitcher Tommy Smith Reaches Career Strikeout Milestone

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Tommy Smith learned long ago it takes more than a blur of a fastball to be a big strikeout guy.

Secondary pitches are key. Location, too. Setting up hitters and then having the ability to finish them without mercy makes those Ks pile up.

Smith, a senior on the Clarion-Limestone baseball team, also discovered that trying to strike everyone out isn’t always the best strategy. In the past, his pitch counts soared. This year, he wanted to be more efficient, even if his strikeout totals plummeted.

(Pictured above, Tommy Smith/photo by Diane Lutz)

“My goal at the beginning of the year was not necessarily the strikeouts, but just to be able to throw more strikes to get people out more consistently,” the right-hander said. “This year I haven’t had anywhere near the number of strikeouts I did last year. There’s been a few games I’ve had some trouble with walks, but I feel like for the most part I’ve cut down on that pretty well.”

Strikeouts, though, are still a big part of what makes Smith one of the best hurlers in District 9. He had 74 of them in 44⅔ innings last season and needed 45 this year to reach 200 in his career — one of the biggest milestones in high school baseball.

Smith, his innings nearly cut in half from last year because of C-L’s deep staff, wondered if he was going to make it.

Two big performances against Forest and Keystone this week got him there.

He needed 45. He got 45.

“I mean, it’s awesome,” Smith said. “Coming in starting my freshman year, I didn’t even know that was possible. I didn’t even know 100 strikeouts was a big milestone. Not a whole lot of people get to 100, so getting 200 is even cooler.”

Smith, a Clarion Golden Eagle recruit, got there by striking out six in two no-hit innings against Forest on Tuesday and then fanning nine in three perfect frames against Keystone on Thursday afternoon.

Smith kept meticulous count over the years.

“In the back of my mind, I was curious,” he said. “Last year, I was keeping count pretty hard. I was keeping up. I knew at the beginning of the year I needed 45 more for 200. Then we started getting down to the wire.”

Smith turned in another stellar season. He is 6-2 with a 2.22 ERA. In 28⅓ innings, he had 45 strikeouts to 16 walks.

Smith got off to a bit of a slow start this spring because of lingering soreness in his shoulder. He was also recovering from a knee injury suffered during football season for Central Clarion.

“I was a little worried about my arm at the beginning of the year,” he said.

Those woes quickly faded, and Smith was back to being his dominant self.

Smith throws a two- and four-seam fastball and mixes in a 12-6 curveball and a hard-biting slider. He’s also added a changeup to his offerings.

Despite his success this season, Smith isn’t completely satisfied with how he has performed on the mound.

“I didn’t have the same year as I did last year,” Smith said. “But I still got the job done.”

Smith wasn’t asked to do the heavy lifting on the staff this year. That’s because of the emergence of junior Logan Lutz, who reached 100 career strikeouts on Tuesday.

Kohen Kemmer and Paul Craig have also eaten up innings this season for Clarion-Limestone, taking a lot of the pressure off Smith.

“If you ask me, Logan was the ace this year,” Smith said. “He stepped up big time. I have no problem admitting that, either.”

Clarion-Limestone is the third seed in the District 9 Class 2A playoffs. The Lions (11-5) will host Port Allegany on Tuesday at a time to be determined in the second round.

“The mindset is kind of the same,” Smith said of turning the page to the playoffs. “We struggled a little bit toward the middle of the season, just not being able to get the bats hot. But I think the last few game, we’ve kind of turned it around a little bit. I think everyone’s pretty much all in. We have a pretty good group of guys.”