Earlier this month, Jeff Forehand watched as, for the first time, a former player of his made his Major League Baseball debut.
The second time might not be far off.
Former Lipscomb pitcher Josh Smith is already making waves in the minor leagues. Halfway through his first full season with the Dayton (Ohio) Dragons, the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, Smith is 7-3 with a 1.59 ERA in 13 starts. In 73.2 innings pitched, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has 91 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks.
Tuesday, he will play in the Midwest League All-Star Game at Davenport, Iowa.
“It seems like every time he pitches, he is putting up the numbers that he needs to put up to help his team win and also help him climb up the ranks,” said Forehand, who has been Lipscomb’s head baseball coach since 2007.
Smith, a native of Margate, Fla., drafted in the 21st round in 2010, pitched at Lipscomb from 2006-10. During his senior campaign last spring, the right-hander was 8-4 with a 4.66 ERA. He ranked fourth in the country with 124 strikeouts.
He left Lipscomb as the first player in the school’s NCAA era to have two or more 100-strikeout seasons. He also set the school’s NCAA records for strikeouts in a game (15), wins in a season (eight) and innings pitched in a season (104.1).
After he was drafted last year, he quickly made an impression in Rookie League ball. He posted a 2.14 ERA in 12 relief appearances for the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs and was promoted to Dayton before the end of the summer.
“It is exciting to see him have success,” Forehand said. “Josh is doing really well. To be named to the All-Star Game is big for him.”
While Smith is performing well on the smaller stage, Rex Brothers just made his debut on the big stage.
Just two years after he was taken as a supplemental pick in the first round of the draft by the Colorado Rockies, the former Bison cracked the Big Leagues. On June 6, the left-handed reliever made his debut with the Rockies, allowing two hits in 0.2 innings pitched.
The Chapel Hill, Tenn., native has thrown in five games since. He didn’t allow a run in his first three outings but has last allowed four earned runs in his last three appearances. In his most recent performance, on Sunday, Brothers was roughed up for three runs — two earned — as he failed to record an out against the Detroit Tigers. In just five innings pitched this season, his ERA is 7.20.
Brothers is the second former Lipscomb player to reach the majors. Bo McLaughlin was the first, when he made his debut with the Houston Astros in 1976. McLaughlin, coincidentally, is now the pitching coordinator for the Rockies.
As a junior at Lipscomb in 2009, Brothers went 5-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 14 starts. He recorded 132 strikeouts with only 43 walks in 94 innings pitched. The year before, he pitched 5.1 innings in Lipscomb’s historic victory over Georgia in the Bisons’ first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Georgia finished the 2008 season as the College World Series runner-up.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Brothers quickly ascended up the minor-league ladder in 2009, finishing the summer in Single-A Asheville (N.C.). He ended 2010 in Double-A Tulsa (Okla.) and began this spring in Triple-A Colorado Springs. After 25 games, with 45 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings pitched, the Rockies had seen enough, calling him up on June 4.
“I think everybody knew at some point he was going to be in the big leagues,” Forehand said. “It is no secret why he is there. [A fastball] at 96 miles per hour and a hard, 87, 88 miles-per-hour slider is difficult to handle. That is why he’s there.”