0

Smith is ELCA baseball's comeback kid

Photo by Derrick Mahone
After a year’s work of rehab, Eagle’s Landing Christian pitcher Josh Smith has worked his way into the No. 2 pitcher spot following Tommy John surgery last year.

Photo by Derrick Mahone After a year’s work of rehab, Eagle’s Landing Christian pitcher Josh Smith has worked his way into the No. 2 pitcher spot following Tommy John surgery last year.

McDONOUGH — Josh Smith always had it in the back of his mind that he was going to pitch this season.

Not only did the Eagle’s Landing Christian senior want to return to the mound, he wanted to be in the starting rotation. It was understandable why he wanted to put in the extra work after his rehab sessions.

Smith, a pitcher, had Tommy John surgery on his right throwing arm in February 2012.

After missing all last season while rehabbing, he is now in the ELCA starting rotation as it takes on Mount Paran for the Class A private school championship.

“It was tough getting back to normal,” Smith said before Thursday’s practice. “You have your up days and down days with your arm pains, but what pitcher doesn’t? I put in the extra work on my off days of rehab to get into this position.”

And he couldn’t be more pleased with the work.

Heading into its best-of-three series with Mount Paran, Smith sports a 4-0 record in 26 innings, which includes two saves. He has a 1.08 ERA as the No. 2 pitching in the team’s rotation.

“There was no way I was going to miss the biggest season of my life,” Smith said. “Honestly, I have been really impressed with how I was able to comeback.”

Smith started the season slow as the coaching staff worked him into some innings. Full recovery time for his surgery is 18 months, while he is still 14 months removed from surgery.

He missed his entire junior season after moving up from the JV late in the year as a sophomore. Smith had a chance to work into the rotation as a junior, but a diagnosis in November 2011 sidelined him for the entire season.

After getting second opinion about his elbow, it was decided that he needed the unique surgery to relieve the pain. Smith had surgery at the renown Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

And then months of rehab followed.

ELCA coach Doug Campbell is not surprised with his recovery.

“Josh has always been a kid with a lot of confidence,” Campbell said. “Our pitching coach (Jason Williard) did a good job of working him back into the lineup. Josh was pretty dedicated to doing the work to get back. It was one inning at a time, and I’m really happy with his progression.”

Aside from playing for a state title, Smith will have a personal achievement on Sunday. He is expected to sign with Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., on a baseball scholarship.

With a 3.67 grade-point average, Smith was hoping to get a walk-on with a program and attend college on the H.O.P.E. Scholarship. But Truett-McConnell was impressed enough to offer him a scholarship.

“At first they called and said, that I could walk on,” Smith said. “A couple days later, they offered me the scholarship. I’m extremely pleased.”

Right now, his focus is helping the top-ranked Chargers win their first state title since the 2006 season. He is expected to pitch Game 2 of the series.

“This is like a dream come true for me,” Smith said. “I’m happy to be back in the starting lineup, and I’m happy to be able to help my team. I started motivated throughout the rehab, because I wanted the chance to pitch in a state championship game.”