PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry’s three-sport star Tyler Smith has verbally committed to play baseball at East Carolina University.
Smith started at quarterback for the football team and at small forward for the basketball team as a junior.
While he had success in both sports, it was the spring season where Smith really shined.
Tyler was a great pitcher for the JV team as a sophomore, said assistant coach Chad Freeman. For most teams, he could have been a varsity starter in the 10th grade, but the 2014 team had Tyler Marion, Scott Meredith, Seth Brim and Cody Ashburn.
“It has been great watching him blossom over the past couple of years,” said Freeman. “He performed very well all year long.”
In his first year on varsity, all Smith did was post one of the best single seasons in East Surry history.
Smith’s record was 11-1, with an ERA of 0.51.
That only loss came to 4A Reagan, said Freeman. The score was 3-0, and two of those runs were unearned, he noted.
Other than those two runs, he Tyler did well in that game and great the rest of the season, said the coach.
Over the whole season, Smith pitched 68 2/3 innings and struck out 132 batters; that’s nearly two strikeouts per inning.
“He’s a competitor, that’s what makes him good on the mound,” said Barry Hall, who recently retired as head coach.
When he first came up to varsity, he needed a couple of outings to get comfortable, but by midseason Tyler was a different pitcher, said Hall. Batters had trouble catching up with his fastball and his slider.
Some guys are just a bulldog, he said. They aren’t afraid of anyone and never want to come out of the game. Guys like Tyler make a coach’s job easy because it doesn’t matter as much what pitch is called, he will find a way to win.
“Tyler has a great attitude. He listens, soaks it in and goes out there and does his job,” said Hall.
Tyler hits the weight room, works hard in practice and is still getting stronger, said Freeman.
Early in the season, Tyler was hitting 86-87 on the radar gun, but by the end of the season, he was hitting the low-90s, said Hall.
Still, it can be hard for a 1A player to attract attention of college scouts.
Meredith, player of the year in basketball, had to go to a prep school after graduation in order to get noticed.
Smith has played on travel teams for years to both gain experience and exposure. He thanked Rodney Sheets and Randy Marion for coaching him on those teams.
He also thanked his uncle Chris for working with him on his pitching as a child.
Barry Hall said he coached both brothers. Tyler’s dad David played third base, and Chris was the ace of the staff all four years of high school. Hall has said that Chris Smith is one of the four best pitchers he ever coached.
Last month, Tyler finally got noticed by scouts, thanks to a couple of appearances in the Powerade State Games in Raleigh.
Tyler tried out for Region 7 and was selected for the team by the coaching staff, which included Matt Scott from Surry Central, said dad David.
Smith pitched two innings in relief in two different games. In his four innings, he struck out seven batters.
Tyler’s fastball was popping between 88 and 91 mph, and the college scouts in attendance were scribbling down notes, said David.
The family hadn’t even gotten home from Raleigh when their phones started ringing.
East Carolina was just one of several colleges that wanted Tyler to come in for a visit, David said. The others included Liberty, UNC Asheville, Winthrop, UNC Charlotte, Western Carolina and UNC Greensboro.
Over the next few weeks, the Smith family would travel back and forth across the state, visiting campuses.
On the day the East Surry football team was having 7-on-7 drills at North Surry, Tyler was with the basketball team at a camp at Guilford College, recalled David.
David picked him up from Guilford and they drove straight to Liberty for a visit.
While all the schools were nice — and everywhere they visited, the college offered a scholarship — Tyler was really impressed with ECU and the coaching staff, said David.
It is pretty impressive to have a 1A pitcher get a scholarship from a Division I program, said Freeman.
While the national signing day for college isn’t until November, Smith has chosen to end his recruitment by giving his verbal commitment to ECU.
“All his hard work has paid for him,” said his dad. David and Susan are very proud of their son.
“Through all this, he hasn’t been one to brag,” David said of Tyler. “He has stayed humble through all this.”
Tyler is a special athlete, and a small school like East Surry is lucky to have him, said basketball coach Jason Anderson.Yet, Tyler’s not just a good athlete, but a good person and leader as well. Guys rally around him.
Despite the scholarship offer, Tyler is adamant he still wants to play football and basketball, despite the risk of injury.
Next year, the Smiths will have some traveling to do. Not only will Tyler be far off to the east at ECU, but daughter Ashley is headed off to Appalachian State after two years playing volleyball at SCC.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.