Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith is a sophomore on the ECU Baseball team.

The No. 7 ranked East Carolina University baseball team entered the year confident with its weekend rotation, but after a stumble early, the Pirates scrambled to find a consistent rotation at the beginning of the season.

Now head coach Cliff Godwin and the team have found that in sophomore pitcher Tyler Smith just two months into the 2017-18 season.

Jake Agnos, fellow sophomore pitcher, held the Sunday starter role to begin the season, but after early struggles, was moved to the Pirates’ midweek roll. Smith stepped up when needed and has established himself as a go-to pitcher for Godwin to close out the weekend after starting in the bullpen.

“Smith was put in the bullpen because we had so much confidence in him,” Godwin said. “He really had all of the different hats last year, being in the starting role, middle relief role and the closing role and he has done that this year. I’m proud of him because his hard work has paid off so far. He just has to continue to work and focus on the little things and keep getting better.”

Last year, Smith was 2-0 in starts as freshman. In 27 total appearances, Smith finished with an ERA of a 3.95. He earned his two wins on March 26 against Towson University and against the University of Cincinnati on April 23, both in Sunday starts.

Smith has filled that gap in the weekend rotation by showing time and time again the type of pitcher he is on the mound and why he has been a problem to opposing teams. Now in his sophomore campaign, the righty has already made more appearances as a starter for the Pirates in the first 31 games of the season, going 4-0 in his starts in the weekend series. Smith made his first start against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on March 10, when the Pirates won the game. He threw for six innings and gave up just three hits and zero runs while only walking one. Godwin said this first start gave him a lot of confidence to keep Smith in the weekend rotation.

“Slowing the game down has been a big thing for me,” Smith said. “Last year I rushed a lot of things, (but) this yea, knowing that controlling my breathing has really helped me on the mound, I have done a good job of doing that so far with Coach (Dan) Rozel. I have really taken it one pitch at a time, not worrying about the previous pitch or the next pitch.”

Smith helped the Pirates take down No. 20 ranked Wichita State University in Clark LeClair Stadium in a series clinching 5-0 victory on March 31. Smith threw in a career high 7.1 innings, allowing five hits and one walk but never surrendered a run.

“He is a very confident pitcher on the mound,” redshirt sophomore catcher Jake Washer said. “He can go out there and get a lot of outs, ground balls and quick innings. I expect to see him out there a lot more on the mound.”

The ECU baseball team will hit the road for a midweek matchup with Elon University before welcoming the University of South Florida over the weekend, looking to improve to 8-0 in weekend series this year. With Smith slated to start in the Sunday games, the Pirates may be in the position to succeed with him on the mound.

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