Prep baseball: East's Smith will play at Pitt CC
By Mike London
East Rowan graduate Zach Smith attended a junior college game as a regular fan, not a prospect, but the trip led to a substantial offer from Pitt Community College.
Smith journeyed to Louisburg to watch high school and American Legion teammate Trey Holmes play for Pitt in the spring.
“Trey’s father (Jimmy) introduced me to Pitt’s head coach,” Smith said. “They asked me to come down there for a workout, and they ended up offering me a 50 percent scholarship. That’s when I committed.”
Tommy Eason coached Pitt to a 35-6 record this season, with Holmes playing every game at first base. Holmes batted .361 with four homers and 47 RBIs.
“Trey loves Pitt, and his success this season influenced Zach,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “Pitt’s schedule gives Zach a chance to play 40 games for a quality program against good competition.”
Holmes and Smith both have a ton of potential and should move on to four-year colleges after two-year stays at Pitt, which has outstanding baseball facilities and is located near East Carolina.
Smith was a starting outfielder at East Rowan the past three seasons and has been a fixture for the Rowan County Legion team the last two summers.
Hightower believes Smith’s been overlooked by recruiters and was surprised he didn’t get more attention from four-year schools. Smith said Belmont Abbey, which is in the midst of a coaching change, showed the most interest.
“Zach is an awesome guy,” Hightower said. “The last two years he just drove in run after run for us. The difference was his junior year he was hot and cold, but as a senior he was consistent, whether he was our No. 3 guy or our leadoff hitter. “He was great in center field this year. He took charge of our outfield and made just one error.”
Smith has enough speed for center field and enough arm for right and looks comfortable at either position. Smith played right for the Mustangs in 2008 when they had Micah Jarrett roaming center
Smith batted .321 for Hightower as a junior with 19 extra-base hits, including four home runs. He drove in 35 runs, second on a 3A state runner-up team to Jarrett’s 39.
As a senior, Smith was the Cliff Peeler Easter Tournament MVP. He batted .378, with half of his 16 extra-base hits leaving the park.
Six of his homers came on the road. He knocked in a team-high 33 runs.
Making steady contact without sacrificing power, Smith had more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). He posted an on-base percentage of .469 and hit .423 with runners in scoring position.
Hightower wasn’t kidding about Smith’s consistency. He had just two 0-for-3s and one 0-for-4 his senior season. In the one game in which he wore a size 4 collar, he contributed a heads-up, game-deciding steal of home.
“Zach does everything well,” Hightower said. “There’s not a weak point in his game.”
Rowan County Legion coach Jim Gantt has also benefited from Smith’s talent.
Smith batted .338 last summer, and his 40 RBIs were third on the team behind the Holmes brothers, Noah and Trey. He had nine doubles and four homers and is certain to improve those numbers this season.
Smith homered Thursday at Lexington and Friday at Newman Park against Mooresville to lift his rapidly swelling season totals to three homers and 20 RBIs.
“Zach’s got a lot of tools,” Gantt said. “At the plate, he’s got good power to all fields. Defensively, his arm isn’t just strong, it’s very accurate.”
Smith was very good last summer, but it’s not hard to see he’s getting better. He hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. Pitt is giving him an opportunity to keep growing as a player and person.
“I really like the way Zach carries himself,” Gantt said. “He’s more mature than last year. Not cocky at all, but he plays with a whole lot of confidence.”
Unusual weather patterns over the past few weeks have many gardeners scratching their heads as to some of their problems.... read more