By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Josh Smith made the kind of error that can wreck a freshman’s confidence and precipitate a tail spin.
His wild throw on Friday night cost Jared Poche’ a victory in what might’ve been his final start at Alex Box Stadium as Auburn tied the middle game of the series at 3-3 in the blink of an eye.
Instead the way the Baton Rouge native has responded since offers a glimpse into why he’s a steady contributor for the Tigers right now and has the makings of a superstar in the years to come.
“Honestly, right after it happened,” Smith said of putting the rare error behind him. “That’s baseball. You’re going to make mistakes, and if you harp on them, you’re going to give your next at-bat or opportunity at a ground ball away.”
“That’s why I don’t worry about Josh Smith,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri added. “He’s a winner.”
Smith drew a walk against Auburn co-ace Keegan Thompson in the bottom of that inning and scoring the go-ahead run on Mike Papierski’s game-winning homer. Then, in the ninth inning, he made a sure-handed play at the hot corner to cement the victory.
That momentum carried right over into Saturday’s series finale. Smith went 2-for-2 against Casey Mize, Auburn’s other co-ace, and reached base safely and scored in each of his first three plate appearances as LSU routed Auburn 9-1 to finish off a pivotal sweep.
His offensive success serves as a mere addition to his contributions at third base in support of roommate Eric Walker’s no-hit bid. Smith made a sliding play to his left in the second inning and an incredible leaping stab on a ball ticketed for the left field corner to begin the eighth inning.
Both Smith and Walker thought it was the play that’d save a no hitter. A solo homer ended the no hitter, but it didn’t make Smith’s play any less spectacular.
“Honestly I have no clue how I caught it,” Smith laughed. “I probably caught it behind my head. I saw it, but I don’t know how I caught it.”
Saturday’s all-around effort is the byproduct of extra work put in behind the scenes. Smith revealed that he stayed long after Friday night’s win, taking cuts in the batting cages until damn near midnight to work out some kinks at the plate.
The results spoke for themselves Saturday for the world to see.
“I was trying to get comfortable in the box again,” Smith said. “I wasn’t really feeling too good at the plate and was getting beat on pitches I don’t normally get beat on. I’m trying to get back to seeing the ball better and fix a few things, and it paid off today.”