When trying to name some of the greatest pitchers in the history of the storied Blue Springs High School baseball program, a pretty strong list comes to mind.
Former Examiner Player of the Year Nick Tepesch, who has pitched in the big leagues and was drafted by the Texas Rangers, is near the top of the list alongside Kris Johnson, who pitched in the majors, and is now a star in Japan whose likeness is displayed on billboards, buses and the side of buildings.
Then there are Kyle Barbeck and former co-Examiner Player of the Year Ricky Wilson (who shared the honor with his catcher Rusty Meyer), two more former all-state standouts who, like Tepesch and Johnson, were perennial members of The Examiner’s All-Area team.
It’s now time to add another name to the list, and it might catch the casual fan off guard because this is the first season senior Peyton Smith has stepped on the mound and dominated opponents.
“Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as those great pitchers is pretty amazing to me,” Smith said. “I had no idea what to expect this year. I knew I’d worked hard, I knew I had a great team behind me, but I didn’t expect a start like this.”
Following Tuesday’s 10-0 mercy-rule win over Suburban Big Seven power Lee’s Summit, Smith is 6-1 with 47 strikeouts in just 39 innings. He has a microscopic 0.60 ERA and opponents are batting an anemic .099 against one of the most surprising starters in Wildcats’ history.
“He played outfield for us last year, which shows you how much I know about pitching,” joked longtime Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott, whose Wildcats are 16-6 overall and 4-2 in league play. “When it was time to hand him the ball, he responded.
“He’s a pitcher! When he goes out on the mound, he has a plan. This season is far from over, and when you think of the greats like Tep, Kris, Kyle and those guys, they did it for an entire season.
“But in the 21 years I have been a part of this program, I’ve never seen anyone get off to a start like Peyton.”
And while Smith is enjoying his hot start, he knows that all the team’s success does not sit upon his shoulders.
“I’m just one pitcher on a staff of great pitchers,” Smith said. “I take a lot of pride in what I do, and it’s a good feeling to know I’m helping my team. I’m a senior and it’s exciting to have this type of senior season.”
While many of the past Wildcat greats turned up the velocity and threw the ball in the low to mid 90s, Smith takes a simpler approach.
“Those other guys could light up a radar gun at 92, 93, 94 mph,” McElligott said, “but Peyton is in the 85 to 86 mph range. What makes him so special is his control. He lives on the black part of the plate and his command is just unbelievable. And he’s a bulldog on the mound – nothing bothers him.”
McElligott then goes into great detail about a recent Smith shutout in which he threw no-hit ball against Lawrence (Kan.) for six innings.
“They get a couple of hits and a bunt to load the bases in the seventh inning so I go out to the mound to talk to Peyton and he just smiles at me,” McElligott said of Smith, who has taken several no-hitters past the fifth inning this season. “Needless to say, he stayed in the game and struck out the side and we win 2-0. That’s Peyton Smith.”
Smith is eager to keep his breakout season going.
“I want the ball, I want to help this team and I’ve never had this much fun,” he said. “I can’t wait for my next start.”