STARKVILLE – Brandon Smith grew up a Mississippi State fan but never imagined that one day he would don the maroon and white himself and play at Dudy Noble Field.
Smith got that opportunity this past season as a freshman pitcher on the Bulldogs’ College World Series team. He was even a little starstruck by the experience.
“It was really fun meeting all the guys,” Smith said. “There’s guys on the team that you’ve been watching since you were in high school and now you’re playing with them and competing against them. It’s just been a dream come true.”
The right-hander from Richland made his debut on opening weekend against Youngstown State and pitched a perfect inning of relief, including his first career strikeout.
“It was a bunch of excitement finally getting my feet wet,” Smith said. “I grew up a State fan so finally getting that chance was unbelievable.”
In fact, Smith had a stellar start to his career and only surrendered one run in his first seven outings. During that span, he struck out seven and only walked one batter.
“Normally in high school, there’s really not that many guys you have to compete against,” Smith said. “Up here, you have to bring it every single pitch. That’s been my main focus, to win every pitch and not looking ahead to the next guy.”
Smith finished the season with a 3-0 record and a 3.93 earned run average. He struck out 31 and only walked six in 36 2/3 innings of work using his two and four-seam fastball, change-up and knuckle-curve.
Smith even logged three starts, one of which was against LSU in the SEC Tournament.
As a first team All-State selection in high school, Smith received scholarship offers from Ole Miss and Southern Miss but says “it was an easy decision” to chose the Diamond Dogs due to his longstanding fandom.
Even as MSU went through coaching turnover during his recruitment, Smith never wavered in his decision.
“I put a lot of trust in the athletic director, Mr. (John) Cohen because he actually recruited me,” Smith said. “I knew he was going to find the right one and the perfect fit for this school.”
Smith believes Chris Lemonis is the ideal coach not only for himself, but also the program he has such a passion for.
“He’s awesome and a coach that really cares for you,” Smith said. “He’s not a guy that just wants to see what you can do on the field. He wants us to be the best in the classroom and to be the best overall guys that we can in life.”
Smith is far from the only athlete in his family. His father, Guy, played baseball at Belhaven and his mother, Lynn, played basketball there as well. His older brother, Dustin, was a baseball player at Meridian Community College before attending Mississippi State as well.