Tuesday, June 21, 2022
After each baseball season, Evan and Casey Smith sit down and compare their stats.
They’ll go through their pitching numbers and sort through them to see whose stats were better.
It’s a common thing to do in the Smith household, as not only are they pitching against those in the batter’s box, but against each other, too.
A set of identical twins, the Smiths have played on the same team almost their entire life, including during their freshman season at James Madison this past spring. It’s no different this summer, either, playing together with the Valley Baseball League’s Harrisonburg Turks.
“He always brags about how he’s still a hitter and everything, but I just come back with “My ERA’s lower and it shuts him up,” Evan Smith said with a laugh.
Though the summer season is still young, the twins might have to compare their numbers a little earlier, each logging dominant outings on the mound, whether it be as a starter or coming out of the bullpen.
First, it was Evan Smith who set the bar, pitching a career-high nine innings of shutout baseball against the Charlottesville Tom Sox on June 11. In his best outing of the summer, he allowed just two hits and two walks, while recording a pair of strikeouts.
It didn’t take long for Casey Smith to follow his brother’s collegiate career-best outing with one of his own just three days later. He entered from the bullpen with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning and escaped the jam. Casey Smith then proceeded to pitch 6.1 innings of no-run baseball, allowing just a trio of hits and three walks while striking out six batters.
“Between us, we kind of see it as a challenge,” Casey Smith said. “We always want to one-up each other. It’s good to see each other doing well. It’s motivation to keep getting better throughout the season.”
The friendly sibling competition was visible this spring at JMU and the Dukes’ coaching staff noticed it, but it never became a negative. Indeed, it was described as “fun-loving.”
“They have that rivalry going of, “Hey I’m going to prove I’m better than you,” said Jimmy Jackson, JMU’s associate head coach and pitching coach. “Which is one more extra guy to push them as opposed to beating out guys on our team or beating the other team, they’re also trying to prove that they’re better than the other one.”
The twins might be each other’s biggest competition in the dugout or at their house, but they’re also each other’s biggest fans. When one is throwing a bullpen, the other might walk up to Jackson and point something out that they might need to fix on the mound.
“With Casey and Evan, it can be a lot, not in a bad way, but it can be a lot to hear them,” Jackson said. “They’re trying to help each other, but they’re also getting on each other at the same time, like literally in the same breath. I just think they’re so used to helping each other for the first 18 years of their life, that’s all they know.”
They may look identical, stand at the same height, talk almost the same way and even have the same major at JMU – industrial design – but the Smith twins are almost completely different pitchers.
Evan Smith tens to throw a curveball and pitches with a little more precision than his counterpart. Casey Smith tends to utilize his slider more often in addition to throwing a few miles an hour faster than his brother. The one thing in common, though, is they both can pepper the strike zone.
Now, this summer with the Turks, they are able to show what they can do on the mound.
In their first year with the Dukes this spring, neither one saw consistent innings, sitting behind an army of seniors and fifth-year pitchers. Evan Smith logged 6.1 innings with the Dukes while Casey Smith recorded three innings and stood in the batter’s box nine times.
Though they were limited in their innings with the purple and gold, the early success this summer isn’t a surprise to Jackson.
“To be honest, I’m not shocked,” Jackson said. “I’m not shocked at all just because they’re two guys that we have expected big things from. We know the talent is there, the ability is there, it was just a matter of consistency.”
Evan Smith was almost the definition of consistent through his first 12 innings this summer, allowing five hits and posting a 0.00 ERA in the process. His complete-game shutout outing provided a bulk of the innings, but he only needed 95 pitches to record the win.
In that outing, Evan Smith said he didn’t realize he had pitched the entire game until he walked out to the mound for the ninth inning and looked at the scoreboard in right field at Veterans Memorial Park. It was filled with zeros and he just had one frame to complete.
“I’m here,” Evan Smith thought to himself on the mound before getting a pair of groundouts and a strikeout. The Turks went on to win 1-0 to Sam Schner’s walk-off single that scored Matthew Matmatas from third.
Evan Smith lost his streak of no earned runs in his third outing of the season with one inning out of the bullpen in a 10-8 loss to the Tom Sox on June 17. He gave up three runs on a trio of hits, but his early-season success has given him added confidence.
“It makes me definitely feel confident with the ability that I can go out and throw,” Evan Smith said. “I feel like confidence is the biggest thing as a pitcher …Just go out there, throw to everybody the same and get as many outs as you can.”
Added confidence was something that Casey Smith experienced after his dominant relief outing as well.
“I know I’m a good pitcher, just getting out there and actually doing it is another thing,” Casey Smith said. “It’s good to see that.”
As the summer grind continues, the Smiths will rack up innings on the mound, something that Jackson said is a huge opportunity for them to see collegiate hitters, but also to help increase their confidence on the rubber.
“I don’t think they’ve ever lacked confidence by any means … but all it’s going to do is blow up their confidence even more because now they have numbers to back it up,” Jackson said. “As opposed to mentally thinking they’re good enough, now they’re starting to prove it”