When Payton Smith came through with a stellar effort last week in the championship game of the District C Baseball Tournament, among his first thoughts were he would get the opportunity to play at historic Mike Carter Field a few more times.
Smith’s mound mastery helped Tyler Junior College clinch a berth in the NJCAA Division III World Series, which begins today at Mike Carter Field.
The World Series, in its 21st year, is being presented by Wells Fargo Advisors Tyler Texas Offices.
Smith, a former Whitehouse High School standout, has been instrumental in helping the Apaches achieve a 36-18 record and earning a berth in the tournament.
“It is really special playing at Mike Carter Field and being a local guy it makes it even more special,” said Smith, who tossed 5 2-3 innings of shutout ball in the Apaches’ 11-1 win over Richland College, a win that earned them a berth in the Juco World Series. “It is an advantage for us; we would like a good, lively crowd.”
The No. 3 Apaches open the tournament against No. 2 St. Cloud (Minn.) Technical and Community College (42-7) at 9 a.m. today.
The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 8:45 a.m. today.
Greg Strnadel, Complex Manager, Wells Fargo Advisors, Tyler, Texas office will be throwing out the first pitch. Sara Hightower Murff scholarship winners, Gena Allen of Arp and Travis Miller of Tyler, will be introduced, and Lauren Alexander, singer/songwriter, will sing the national anthem.
Smith, who grew up playing in the Whitehouse Baseball League followed by the Rose Capital East Little League, sports a record of 7-3 with an ERA of 2.59. He has 48 strikeouts in 55 2-3 innings of work.
Before coming to TJC he was Pitcher of the Year in District 14-4A while at Whitehouse as well as an All-East Texas selection.
Last year as an Apache he came out of the bullpen, but returned to starting this season.
TJC Doug Wren said Smith has a “good live fastball and a sharp breaking ball.”
The Apaches will need innings from Smith if they would like to win their second World Series title.
Smith feels TJC has an excellent shot of winning the coveted crown.
“We got a good pitching staff; and our offense has really come on lately,” Smith said. “If we put up zeros and keep hitting we will be alright.
“I just need to go up there and throw strikes; and the defense will take care of things behind me.”
Smith, the son of Robin and Danny Smith of Whitehouse, graduated from TJC last Saturday. He has three siblings — sister Hope, 22, who graduated from TJC’s dental hygienist school; brother McKenlee, 17, who plays football at Whitehouse High School; and brother Drew, 15, who plays football and basketball at WHS.
Smith has not decided where he will play next year, but he has several options.
But first he would like to hoist another huge banner like the one displayed noting TJC’s 2007 World Series championship.
“We have been working for that all year,” said Smith, pointing to the 2007 sign during an interview on Wednesday. “We would like to hang one up too.”
The D-III National Baseball Championship presented by Wells Fargo Advisors Tyler Texas Offices is scheduled to begin today at Mike Carter Field. This is the sixth consecutive year the tournament has been held in Tyler. SporTyler and Tyler Junior College recently won a bid that keeps the event here through at least 2015.
Eight teams, including Tyler Junior College, will by vying for the coveted championship. Six of the teams are ranked in the NJCAA Top 10 poll.
It is double elimination with four games each today and Sunday.
Six of the eight teams in this year’s bracket have participated in the tournament within the last three years. Joliet (Ill.) and Gloucester County (N.J.) are both returning from the 2011 event. Montgomery College-Germantown (Md.), Nassau (N.Y.) and Tyler all competed in the 2010 event, while Northern Essex (Mass.) qualified in 2009. Niagara County CC (N.Y.) last appeared in the tournament in 2006 and St. Cloud is the lone team this year making its debut.
Top-ranked Gloucester County is returning to Tyler for the third consecutive season. The Roadrunners finished as the national runner-up in 2011 after claiming the title 2010 over TJC. GCC is 46-9 overall and has represented District G/Region 19 in the DIII World Series 18 times in the 21-year history of the tournament.
The national semifinal contest is slated for Monday. On Tuesday, there will be two elimination games. The first national championship game will be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday The second national title game (if necessary) will be played on Thursday.
SMOKE SIGNALS: Mike Carter Field, 1900 W. Houston St., is between the Tyler Rose Garden and Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. … Ticket prices are: tournament pass (adults only) $20; single day pass (adult) $5; single day pass (students/children) $3; children 10 & under (free) and any Little League player in uniform (free). … Fans can watch and listen to the games on www.njcaatv.ihigh.com.
NJCAA Division III World Series
Presented By Wells Fargo
Advisors Tyler Texas Office
At Mike Carter Field
Saturday, May 19
Game 1: Tyler Junior College (36-18) vs. St. Cloud (Minn.) Technical & Community College (35-5), 9 a.m.
Game 2: Joliet (Ill.) Junior College (33-29) vs. Nassau (N.Y.) Community College (23-26), noon
Game 3: Niagara County (N.Y.) Community College (35-20) vs. Gloucester (N.J.) Community College (46-9), 4 p.m.
Game 4: Montgomery (Md.) College-Germantown (30-26) vs. Northern Essex (Mass.) Community College (27-7), 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 20
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 9 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, noon
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Monday, May 21
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, noon
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 4 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, May 22
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 4 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 23
Game 14: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 24
Game 15: If necessary, 7 p.m.