HUNTINGTON — Levi Smith became the latest player from Spring Valley’s baseball team to join the incoming class for West Virginia State University when he signed his letter of commitment to the school on Wednesday.
Smith was emotional as he thanked his family, friends, teammates and coaches for helping his collegiate baseball dream a reality.
“I didn’t want to write my speech down,” said Smith. “I wanted it to be real and from the heart.”
Smith had to pause to gather himself before sitting down at a table draped in a navy blue cloth adorned with the Timberwolves logo and situated in the center of the high school’s auditorium stage. He signed his letter joining current Spring Valley teammate Tyrus Baumgardner as a Yellow Jacket.
Once on the campus in Institute, Baumgardner, who signed with the school on Dec. 11, and Smith will join 2017 Spring Valley graduate Daniel Brandon, who transferred to WVSU and his spending his junior season on the Yellow Jackets staff.
“He was a mentor for me here,” Smith said. “He taught me to never hold back and to be confident in myself.”
Smith, a right-handed pitcher, spent his freshman and sophomore campaigns on the junior varsity squad for Spring Valley head coach Austin Pratt. In 2019, he got his chance to pitch at the varsity level.
According to Pratt, Smith made 12 appearances as a junior, including five starts, turning in 22 1/3 innings pitched, a 3-1 record and 3.44 earned run average. The senior works with a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider and a change-up.
“He started pitching for us as a sophomore,” Pratt said. “His slider and two-seamer have been really good and he’s worked to develop his arm strength. He got meaningful innings pitched for us and I feel confident he can come in and pitch whenever he’s needed.
Pratt got Smith an appearance at a camp at WVSU where a workout before Yellow Jackets head coach Sean Loyd started the hurler’s recruitment.
Other offers followed from Fairmont State and Bluefield State, whose coach contacted Smith while he was posing for prom pictures last spring. Smith said WVSU was where he wanted to be.
Pratt said he wants Smith to be among the leaders on a pitching staff that otherwise will be young and inexperienced at the varsity level.
West Virginia State competes at the NCAA Division II level and is a member of the Mountain East Conference.