OMAHA, Neb. — Josh Smith has grown tired of seeing some of his best shots die in an outfielder’s glove on the warning track.
He’s had a lot of them this season — balls that, off the bat, looked destined to become souvenirs that instead get sent back to the pitcher to use against the next batter.
Remember that shot against Mississippi State in the super regional? The surefire three-run go-ahead home run that somehow was caught with the right fielder’s back against the wall?
Smith remembered that one and many others, for sure. But he created a memory he likely will never forget Friday against Oregon State, leading off the seventh inning with a solo home run to right field, providing LSU a two-run cushion.
“That was so big,” senior shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Just that one run gave us so much more confidence there, a little bit more breathing room.”
Smith was looking for a first-pitch fastball, and he got one. Even better, it was out over the middle of the plate.
“Finally, I didn’t hit it to the warning track,” Smith wisecracked.
That gave Smith five home runs on the year, but this one might have been his deepest. It cleared the LSU bullpen behind the right field fence, settling into the bleachers.
It capped off a 2-for-4 day at the plate for the freshman third baseman, who also brought the go-ahead run home with an RBI single in the second inning.
That at-bat might’ve been even more impressive. Smith fell behind 0-2 to Oregon State’s Jake Thompson, a big right-hander who entered the game with the nation’s best record at 14-0.
“I just tried to shorten up, think what he was thinking almost, and stay back and react to whatever he pitches,” said Smith, who worked the count back to 2-2 before lacing an inside fastball back up the middle after fouling off back-to-back two strike sliders.
Perhaps his strong day at TD Ameritrade Park was the result of some coaching.
He spent some extra time at practice the day before with LSU hitting coach Micah Gibbs and undergraduate assistant Sean Ochinko, working, among other things, on starting his swing a little sooner.
“I guess it just freed my hands up and allowed me to get a little more pop on it,” Smith said.