GREENVILLE — Back in February, former East Surry standout Tyler Smith went into his sophomore season on the East Carolina University baseball team projected as a swingman and possible mid-week starter for the nationally-ranked Pirates.
However, Smith shoved those expectations aside when he finally got a chance to start for ECU about a month into the season, blanking Charlotte over six innings in a weekend game. Wins over Maryland, national power Wichita State and the University of Washington in Seattle followed over the next three weeks, and it was clear that the 20 year-old Smith was more important to ECU than he had been expected to be.
His workload was reduced slightly in April and May, but he still earned victories in two American Athletic Conference games, beating Memphis and Tulane on the road, and currently holds a 7-1 record with a 1.85 ERA for the season, along with a save he earned on Feb. 23 in a victory over North Carolina, the nation’s fifth-ranked team according to D1Baseball.com’s latest top 25 poll. Thanks in part to Smith, the Pirates themselves have spent part of the season ranked in the top 10, and are 16th going into the third round of the AAC Tournament on Thursday.
Smith earned the biggest honor of his college career on Monday, when he was one of two ECU players named to the All-AAC Second Team. Four of his teammates were also named to the first team, those being Spencer Brickhouse, Brady Lloyd, Bryant Packard and Chris Holba, the last two unanimously. Smith was joined on the second team by Dwanya Williams-Sutton.
Smith, a 6’0”, 188-pound right-hander, stands among the AAC’s leaders in 14 pitching categories, including first in fewest runs allowed by a qualifying starter (14). He is second in the league in ERA and 20th in the country, and is tied for fourth in the league in wins despite spending the first month of the 2018 season in the bullpen.
East Carolina (41-15) is all but assured of a spot in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the rest of its league tournament, and has already planned a selection day party for Monday at noon, when the bracket is announced.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.