HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Smith's recent power surge assures Tigers stay unbeaten
Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
As the leadoff hitter for Trenton's potent lineup this season, Stephen Smith has built his reputation at the plate by regularly hitting for average and rarely over the outfield wall.
The sight of the 5-foot-10, 155-pound shortstop taking a ball deep — while welcome by Tigers coach Todd Bryant — has happened just three times in nearly three years.
That is, until last week.
In a three-game stretch, Smith homered twice for the Tigers, with solo shots highlighting a pair of comfortable victories.
“He's just started swinging the bat better, and he's getting stronger,” Bryant said. “He got some good pitches to hit, but he's been focusing a lot on improving his swing and that's definitely shown in the last week.”
The power surge could not have come at a better time for the 18-0 Tigers, who are attempting to complete an undefeated regular season with four games remaining.
Smith had multiple hits in each of Trenton's home wins over Dixie County, Lafayette and Bronson last week, finishing a combined 6-for-11 with seven runs and four RBIs. Along with home runs against the Bears and Eagles to bookend the week, Smith also doubled twice and stole a base.
With Smith and Winthrop signee Clif Bryant tied for a team-leading three homers and both hitting better than .500 last week, the Tigers were able to outscore their opponents 24-2.
“When he gets on, things happen for us,” Bryant said. “We move the ball around, we get him to second base and we've got guys in the middle and the bottom of that lineup that can really swing the bat.”
While Bryant prefers Smith primarily at shortstop, the junior closed out his week making his sixth appearance on the mound in Friday's 7-0 win against Bronson. Pitching three innings of scoreless relief, Smith allowed just three hits and struck out three batters to dip his ERA to a paltry 0.45.
“You talk to any coach, and they would trade three or four players for Stephen,” Bryant said. “He's that kind of kid.”
CLIF BRYANT, TRENTON: The Tigers' senior catcher went 5-for-8 at the plate last week in three games with four runs scored and three stolen bases. While he reached base on nine of his 12 plate appearances, Bryant also contributed defensively by allowing no passed balls and throwing out two base runners.
GRANT BERG, EASTSIDE: The junior goalie made 24 saves in the Rams' loss last Tuesday at Oak Hall and then helped shut out Jacksonville Sandalwood in the second half of Friday's 8-7 overtime win.
KYLLE CAHILL-PATRAY, OAK HALL: The sophomore catcher led the Eagles at the plate last week on a combined 7-for-9 display over three games. Cahill-Patray scored seven runs after reaching base and also had seven RBIs.
Track and field
JOSEPH JANSON, P.K. YONGE: A junior long-distance runner, Janson completed two personal-best efforts at the Florida Relays last week, including a 4:27.90 in the 1,600-meter run and a time of 2:04.46 in the 800-meter run. He will enter Thursday's district meet ranked No. 1 in both the 1,600 and 3,200 for the Blue Wave.
LANDON ROGERS, EASTSIDE: A sophomore midfielder, Rogers scored a combined eight goals last week for the Rams in a loss against Oak Hall and an extra time win over Jacksonville Sandalwood.
SHELBY WEST, OAK HALL: West, a freshman, totalled six hits in nine at-bats for the Eagles last week. In three games, the second baseman scored five runs and brought in six more off the base paths.
TAYLOR KNIGHT, P.K. YONGE: The junior first baseman led the Blue Wave to a pair of lopsided wins last week against Columbia and Dixie County by going a combined 4-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored. Knight had an extra-base hit in each game, including a solo home run in P.K. Yonge's 12-3 win last Thursday against the Tigers.
NIKKIA ROBINSON, P.K. YONGE: A freshman outfielder, Robinson had multiple hits in both of the Blue Wave's wins last week. In a 12-3 win at Columbia on Thursday, she went 2-for-3 with a run scored. A day later, Robinson paced a 9-1 victory against Dixie County on 2-for-2 hitting with three runs and a walk.
Track and field
GARRETT WESTLAKE, P.K. YONGE: The senior ran a season-best 4:36.61 in the 1,600-meter run at last week's Florida Relays.
Athletes of the week are determined by nominations from area coaches. Coaches are asked to call in every Sunday between 4-7 p.m.