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TOMMY GUN: Clarion-Limestone’s Smith Ready to Assume Role as Staff Ace for the Lions

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Even before he could remember, Tommy Smith was fielding hot shots in preparation for a baseball career.

“I remember throwing tennis balls at him when he was little, whipping them at him, so he would learn to catch it,” said Tommy’s father, Bill Smith, who is in his first year as the head baseball coach at Clarion-Limestone. “We’ve had a really good baseball experience for him growing up with Little League and travel ball. It’s been a fun ride.”

There’s a few more miles to go on that journey.

(Pictured above, Clarion-Limestone’s Tommy Smith delivers a pitch against West Shamokin in the season opener on March 21/photo by Diane Lutz)

Tommy, a junior pitcher and shortstop for the Lions, has ascended to staff ace this season after Bryson Huwar graduated.

Tommy certainly has the stuff.

Clarion-Limestone Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


Last year, the right-hander led Clarion-Limestone in wins, going 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA. In 44 innings, he struck out 53.

At the plate, he led the Lions with a .453 average out of the No. 2 spot in the order and helped C-L reach the PIAA Class A quarterfinals.

“I just want the team to succeed,” Tommy said. “I mean, baseball is a team sport and it’s nice to see everyone succeed.”

Tommy is hoping to help the Lions turn in an even better campaign in 2023.

He and the Lions are off to a good start.

Tommy was on the mound last week in an 11-0 win over West Shamokin. He struck out nine and walked just one in four strong innings.

He was also 2 for 4 at the plate with a RBI.

“Tommy pitched great. I was hoping to get a full game in, but it was shortened to five innings,” Coach Smith said. “We hit the ball very well for not being on the field. I told them after the game that they should be really excited about what they are capable of doing here.”

Tommy throws a two- and four-seam fastball that clocks in the low- to mid-80s, a changeup and a hard-biting slider.

The slider is his out-pitch.

“I can always, with right-handed batters and it tailing away from them, get a swing and miss or a ground ball with it,” Tommy said. “I can locate it pretty well.”

Tommy plays a lot of baseball throughout the year.

Last summer, he played in a league in Creekside, Ohio, against some pretty strong competition.

It helped him better harness his arsenal of pitches and also aided him with his next goal at the plate — hitting with more pop.

“I’d definitely love to cut down on the walks,” said Tommy, he has 25 base on balls last season. “The first game we played this year, that was kind of my main focus. I wanted to throw strikes and hit my spots and locate and I did a pretty good job with that.”

Tommy said he realizes hitting .453 again may be a tall order.

He was sitting at or above .500 for most of the season until the playoffs, where the quality of the opposition’s pitching improved markedly.

“I would hope that I could do better than that,” Tommy said, chuckling. “I’m still batting in the two-spot, which is where I feel comfortable. I feel like I’ve gotten stronger and I feel like I can hit for an even better average and get more doubles than last year. A lot of my hits were singles last year and I want to play for power more.”

Tommy has a good approach at the plate.

With Logan Lutz hitting in front of him and Jordan Hesdon behind him, Clarion-Limestone has one of the best top of the lineups in District 9.

Tommy is also doing what he can to help C-L off the field.

With only one senior on the roster this season, Tommy is one of the players who has stepped into that breach.

“Tommy has played so much baseball already. I see him taking different steps this year to be that leader,” Coach Smith said. “We only have one senior on the team so he and (Hesdon) have both been doing a nice job taking that leadership role.”

Tommy said he learned a great deal from Huwar last year and standout Hayden Callen the year before that.

It’s now Tommy’s turn.

“We lost a couple of key guys, but everyone’s elevated their game quite a bit,” Tommy said. “We picked up a couple of new guys that I think will help us our quite a bit.

“Bryson was such a great leader last year,” Tommy added. “I learned a lot about being a leader from him and I hope I can step into that role.”

Tommy has already put his name in the Clarion-Limestone record book.

Last year be became just the second Lion ever to throw a perfect game when he tossed five spotless innings against North Clarion.

He struck out 10 of the 15 batters he faced.

“It felt good. I honestly didn’t even know that I had one going until the last inning,” Tommy said. “My uncle (Todd Smith) was the head coach at the time and he told me before I went out that I had a perfect game going on. I ended up doing it and it was pretty cool.”

Tommy hopes to play at the next level when his high school career is over.

While he hasn’t had any contact yet from college coaches, he hopes if he turns in another strong season — and the team does well — that will change.

“I would like to. As you move on in the playoffs to those bigger and bigger games, I know there’s college coaches that tend to come watch those games,” Tommy said. “I think if the team succeeds, that will help get me noticed.”

(This is one in a series of articles highlighting some of the top returning baseball and softball players in District 9 for the 2023 season.)

Clarion-Limestone Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.