Nevada Wolf Pack second baseman Keaton Smith is putting quite the stamp on his collegiate career.
The fifth-year senior is hitting .387 over his last nine games on the season. His hot stretch at the plate also put a bow on a decorated career in the silver and blue.
“Everything is just clicking at the right time,” he said. “I’m not trying to think about too much about this stage of the year and it’s paying off to this point. I’m hoping we can carry this momentum into these final games we have left.”
Smith was named National College Baseball Writers Association National Player of the Week on April 30 after his heroic performances against the No. 2 ranked Oregon State Beavers and Air Force Falcons from April 22-29.
Over the five-game span, Smith led the Pack with a .600 batting average, 15 hits, two homers, three triples, three doubles and a 1.200 slugging percentage. He hit the walk-off home run to clinch the series sweep against the Beavers on April 23. Five days later, Smith hit for the cycle in a 26-15 win over Air Force – the first by a Nevada player since 2012
Smith is the only player from the Mountain West Conference to receive the honor from the NCBWA this season, but he stayed true to his humble roots.
“It’s cool to be recognized like that but I quickly passed over it,” he said. “It doesn’t change anything about me or the team and our ultimate goal as a program.”
A native of Henderson, Nev., Smith’s offensive tear of late has given the Pack new life to make one last push towards the Mountain West Tournament with five games left in the regular season. Nevada fell to sixth in the standings with a 11-16 record in conference.
“Keaton’s been huge for us these past couple games,” said Nevada Head Coach T.J. Bruce. “He’s given our club an energy we’ve needed coming down this crucial stretch and he’s delivered.”
Along with four other departing seniors, Smith was celebrated in a pre-game ceremony on Senior Day at Peccole Park on May 5. Just like the other 184 career games with the Wolf Pack, Smith treated this contest like any other.
“I just want to treat it like any other game,” he said. “I don’t want my nerves to get the best of me knowing it’s almost coming to a close.”
Standing on the first base line towards the home side bleachers, Smith hoisted his No. 4 commemorative-framed jersey with fellow teammates Weston Hatten, Kaleb Foster, Bradley Bonnenfant, Cooper Powell and the memory of Austin Gorrell in celebration.
“Looking back on it, I’m happy to make so many memories here,” he said. “I’m hoping we can reflect on this later on when we get there.”
Smith went 0-4 in the 8-2 loss to Fresno State, who completed the three-game sweep. But Smith’s impact on the program will stay for years to come.
“I want to give it all out there for my guys and hope they know I will be there until the end,” he said.
Smith did just that and more over his five years at Nevada. The senior’s hot bat is relied on more than ever as the Pack try to try to make a late postseason push.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.