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Kermit Smith continues to push Mountaineer legacy forward

Max Sanborn
Head coach Kermit Smith during spring training Feb. 22. The 2024 season will be Smith’s eighth season at App State and he is the 13th coach in program history.

Kermit Smith holds the title of being one of the best App State baseball coaches of all time.

Smith gets his experience as an encouraging coach from being a ball player himself in 2000 for Pfeiffer University. He played one season, then met former App State baseball coach and current Duke coach, Chris Pollard. 

In 2000, Smith was an assistant coach for Belmont-Abbey for a year. After seeing his potential and expertise as an assistant, he went on to be head coach of the American Legion post. Eighty-two former league post players have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

From 2002-07, Smith served as a chair for Conference Carolina coaches while holding the position of chair for Belmont-Abbey College.

In 2007, Smith worked toward a master’s degree and earned it in sports management from California University of Pennsylvania. 

 Smith led the Crusaders to two Conference Carolina titles and a World Series in 2009 as Belmont-Abbey’s head coach from 2001-09. 

Head coach Kermit Smith conducting pitching and batting drills with the team on Feb. 22. Smith won the 2016 American Baseball Coaches Association/Diamond Southeast Regional Coach of the Year. (Max Sanborn)

Lander University took in Smith as head coach in 2009. He gave the Bearcats the tools they needed to acquire the PBC Championship, two NCAA Regional II titles and two College World Series appearances. 

In 2016, Smith joined the Mountaineer family. In 2023, the Black and Gold celebrated 30 wins, their most since 2013. App State concluded their 2023 campaign with 16 conference wins, six series wins and three tournament wins.  

“To produce and get wins as a team, everyone has to contribute,” said Grey LaSpaluto. 

LaSpaluto is a graduate student for the Mountaineers, working on obtaining his master’s in accounting. He is a right-handed pitcher and an occasional infielder for the game. In 2023, he produced a career-best 6.39 ERA. 

“He would always make small talk with you and get to know your family,” LaSpaluto said. “Just on a personal level.”

In Smith’s sixth season with the Mountaineers, he chose to be an assistant coach with Team USA Baseball’s Prospect Development in Cary. It’s a program designed to let players 18 years old and under serve in an identification event for the 18U National Team. 

This season, Smith welcomed six true freshmen in addition to accepting players from the transfer portal. The portal opens up in the summer, leaving the coaching staff with three months to decide who looks promising and if they want to recruit them to App State. 

Smith talked about the qualities he looks for in players to make them a Mountaineer. 

“It’s going to start with talent,” Smith said. “First, you need to assess your own roster, what is the ability or talent of the person that’s at the portal that could potentially fit what you need.”

Getting to know a player on a personal level before accepting from the transfer portal and for recruitment from high school is the most important thing, Smith said. 

“We listen to that locker room a lot,” Smith said. “We ask ourselves is this a guy that would walk into what we do and fit in.” 

Redshirt junior pitcher Bradley Wilson is a general management major in hopes of becoming a financial advisor after college. Wilson is a right-handed pitcher for the Black and Gold. This season, he has an outstanding ERA of 2.25. Wilson expressed how welcoming the team was for him. 

“He’s always fun,” Wilson said. “When you need to be serious, obviously be serious, but he likes to have fun.”

The baseball program has seen changes throughout the years since Smith arrived.

Pitchers now have accessibility to the Pitching Lab, a program that includes numerous cameras that dive deep into the biomechanics of a pitcher’s throwing arm to find the root of a problem or to adjust pitches. 

“It helped me a lot with pitching development,” LaSpaluto said.  

Structural foundations and personal relationships with players is very important to Smith. 

“We spend a lot of time together, other than just playing on the field,” Smith said. “When we interact on the bus, hotel or restaurant, or you know just at practice, I hope they look forward to just as much as I do.”

As the 2024 season kicks off, the culture and the mentality Smith exudes continues to flourish and grow stronger. 

“It’s bigger than just winning or losing a baseball game,” Smith said. “It’s built with the foundation of toughness and honestly just hard work.”

Many memorable games have gone down in the history of App State baseball such as Coastal Carolina, Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic University. 

“Beating Troy in the tournament last year was my favorite,” said Wilson and LaSpaluto. 

Smith had a hard time choosing a favorite game in his many seasons here. 

“There’s been a lot over the years, that has been a great deal,” Smith said. “We’ve had some program firsts here, we had the first tournament win in Sun Belt history, which is always significant when you have a first.”

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About the Contributors
Tess McNally
Tess McNally, Reporter
Tess McNally (she/her) is a sophomore journalism major from Waxhaw, North Carolina. This is her first year writing for The Appalachian.
Max Sanborn
Max Sanborn, Photographer
Max Sanborn (he/him) is a sophomore Commercial Photography Major, from Indian trail, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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