CROSS PLAINS – East Robertson’s Peyton Smith was just one out away from a no-hitter against Richland Monday when coach Derek Wix removed him from the game.
But Smith didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s for the team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long I go, as long as I do my job. I believe in my team 100 percent.”
The Indians dealt Richland a 7-0 defeat in the Region 5-A semifinals to advance to the championship game and clinch a sectional berth behind a stellar outing from Smith.
However, perhaps the biggest victory of the night was keeping Smith’s pitch count low enough for him to start Friday’s sectional game, when a trip to the Class A state tournament will be on the line.
“We were worried more about down the line than about [the no-hitter],” Wix said. “It was big to see [Smith] get up there that first inning and go 10 pitches, three strikeouts and get us back in the dugout – that was a big momentum booster for him.”
Smith went 6.2 innings and did not allow a hit, run or a walk, though he did plunk two batters. He also had 18 strikeouts in front of multiple college scouts, who clocked Smith in the 88-90 mph range.
“It doesn’t really faze me – I want them to be there,” Smith said of the scouts. “I want to get my name out there. I really appreciate them coming out.”
Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Xavier and Tennessee Tech are among the programs that have already shown interest in Smith, though he is just a sophomore. His pitch speed and deceptive delivery puzzled Richland’s entire lineup. Only two of Smith’s recorded outs weren’t strikeouts.
“He’s got a good idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand, even with his secondary pitches,” Wix said. “He’s special, and he’s going to win a lot of baseball games here.
East Robertson’s bats also continued to stay hot. Bryce Smith led the way with a home run in the fifth and three RBI. The Indians have eight postseason homers after hitting just seven in the regular season.
“I can’t attest that to anything,” Wix said. “[The ball] just seems to be jumping off right now. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
Bryce Smith got the scoring started with an RBI double in the first, and Van True drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 2-0 in the second. Smith’s bomb made it 3-0, and the Indians tacked on four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Joey Drury got the frame going with a sac fly RBI, Alex Patterson reached base and later scored on a wild pitch, and Smith followed with his second RBI double of the night.
An infield single from True made it 7-0 East Robertson. After Smith was pulled, junior Wes Lamb struck out the final Richland batter in the seventh.
“We’ll run into some really good teams going forward,” Wix said. “We have to start playing our best baseball now. That’s what we’ve worked on all season – playing for May, pretty much.”
The Indians (25-8) were slated to host Columbia Academy for the Region 5-A title Wednesday.