For The Record – Joe Kazmar

GRANDSON LOGAN SMITH MAKES COLLEGE BASEBALL DEBUT AT LSU

It was fairly early last Wednesday morning when my physical rehab therapist Teresa Caraway was working me out hard enough to see a couple of beads of sweat on my brow when the telephone rang, interrupting her torture tactics.

It was my grandson, Logan Smith, who sounded excited over the news he was about to tell me. “I made the traveling squad, Pa Joe,” he blurted out.

This was a great follow-up from a similar phone call 10 days earlier from West Point when he informed me that he had made the Army baseball team.

Making the Army baseball team was an accomplishment in itself, because Logan was the only “walk-on” to make the team. Most of the other players were recruited and on scholarship.

And Coach Foster could only bring 27 players on the team’s first road trip which was an airline flight to New Orleans Thursday for a huge four-game weekend round-robin with LSU, Air Force and Tulane.

However the rainy weather we got here in Southeast Texas Friday also hit Southeast Louisiana and canceled all the games scheduled that day. Army was supposed to play Air Force at Baton Rouge at 1 p.m. and then travel to New Orleans for a 7 p.m. encounter at Tulane.

LSU head baseball coach, Paul Mainieri, who used to coach at the Air Force Academy, invited the pair of service academies to help LSU ring in the new season. He is very patriotic about the military and those who serve.

The rainout Friday forced him to revise the schedule. So instead of his team playing Army on Saturday, they made it a doubleheader with Air Force playing at Tulane.

Mainieri did it right by having the Air Force’s “Wings of Blue” parachuting team deliver the game ball on the field and a member of the Louisiana National Guard sing the National Anthem. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards threw out the symbolic first pitch.

The first game was not very exciting for the visiting cadets from West Point as junior Alex Lange shut out Army 9-0. That victory certainly didn’t hurt LSU’s national ranking, which was in the top 5 depending on which poll you consulted.

The second seven-inning game was very historical but again not very interesting for Army, which was not only shut out 6-0 by senior Jared Poche, but also was the victim of the sixth no-hitter in LSU history and the first one since 1979. It also was the 2,500 victory for the Bayou Bengal baseball program.

But there was a silver lining around that dark cloud of doom for Army. With LSU leading 4-0 and loading the bases with nobody out, Logan got the call from the bullpen to come put out the fire.

Logan’s eyes grew wide as he surveyed the 10,000 screaming fans in Alex Box Stadium. He turned around and saw a gigantic mug shot of himself on the LSU scoreboard. This was a far cry from the last official game he pitched at Hudson High in Lufkin.

The first batter hit a squibbler between the pitcher’s mound and the first baseman that was ruled a hit as a run scored. Another run came in on a passed ball. The runner on third held on a ground out. Another infield single re-loaded the bases.

Logan, whose best pitch is his slider, went to that bread-and-butter selection and got a ground ball to the shortstop, which was turned into an inning-ending double play.

So Logan got three outs on eight pitches and is only one of three Army pitchers who broke the 90-mph barrier with his fast ball.

The team flew back to West Point Sunday night in their military dress uniforms after whipping Tulane 7-4 Sunday.

Army led 7-2 going into the bottom of the ninth when Tulane scored a pair of runs. Coach Foster had Logan warming up in the bullpen, but didn’t have to use him.

The team has another road trip this week–a three-game series against the Duke Blue Devils. Army may have found a relief pitcher who can throw strikes and get outs!!!

KWICKIES…And while on the subject of college baseball much closer to home, the Lamar Cardinals got their 2017 season off on the right foot for new head coach Will Davis, who coincidentally came from LSU, by winning four games last weekend of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (6-0, 2-1) and Illinois (15-9, 2-1). Both of Sunday’s 2-1 victories went 10 innings. Davis became the first Cardinal coach to win his first four games. The Cards will host Fairfield this weekend for a three-game series.

And going to the next level, the Houston Astros begin Grapefruit League action Saturday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.

Florida State’s Mike Martin became the second baseball coach in NCAA history to reach 1,900 victories when the Seminoles beat Virginia Commonwealth 11-3 last weekend. Martin, 73, who is in his 38th season, joins Augie Garrido as the only coaches to reach that milestone. Garrido, who has 1,975 wins, stepped down at Texas last year.

Dustin Johnson outclassed the field in last weekend’s Genesis Open at Los Angeles, winning by five strokes, but leading at one time in Sunday’s final round by a whopping nine shots. The victory catapulted Johnson to the No. 1 golfer in the world, the 20th player to attain that status since the world rankings began in 1986, ending Jason Day’s 47-week reign.

JUST BETWEEN US…High school baseball began this week amid inclement weather Monday as several area teams appear to be strong with good hitting and sturdy pitching. I wonder if the new pitch count rules will affect any of our local teams.  Athletes can throw 30 pitches without resting any days before pitching again. The scale of rest goes to 31-45 pitches (one day), 46-65 pitches (two days), 66-85 pitches (three days) and 80-110 pitches (four days). A pitch tracker will be designated and coaches will sign a form after each game to document the totals. Umpires have no responsibility for the pitch count.