Two great friends and college teammates are rewriting the Okotoks Dawgs’ record book with an eraser this summer.
Cody Ebert and Craig Smith have been teammates and roommates since they stepped foot on Pratt Community College back in September of 2014. Now, in their victory lap of summer collegiate ball, they will be known as two of the most dominant pitchers in the program’s history.
The duo introduced themselves to the Seaman Stadium faithful when Ebert struck out 10 batters in his debut June 2 against the Medicine Hat Mavericks at Seaman Stadium. Two innings after Ebert exited, Smith came on to tie down his first save of the summer.
That’s the way their friendship started and that’s how they’ll head into the Dawgs’ record books: Ebert starting things, with Smith locking it down in the ninth.
The two are used to this by now, as Smith picked up his first save as a freshman with the Pratt Community College Beavers in a game started by Ebert.
Four years later and Smith is the new single-season franchise record holder for saves and Ebert is the single-season franchise leader for strikeouts. Playing together in Okotoks was a fitting way for these two friends to end their collegiate careers.
“I was on the phone with Craig trying to get them both to come up here. Craig told me he had to talk to Cody to see what he thought of the situation. What I didn’t know was that Cody was sitting right next to him in the room,” said Dawgs Head Coach Mitch Schmidt. “A short while later, Craig spoke up and told me that the only way they were going to come here is if they could live together. I told them that wouldn’t be a problem at all.”
The two right-handed hurlers are different on the outside and pitch differently, but after watching each other closely for so many years, they have learned certain tricks from the other and have implemented it into their own attack mode these days.
“Cody has literally seen every pitch that I’ve thrown in college. He knows what I’m about and I know what kind of pitcher he is,” said Smith.“He’s always had more velocity, where as I’ve relied more on movement and location. I think throughout the years, he’s picked up some of what I have been doing and I know I have definitely used some things from watching him go out and pitch.”
Smith’s fastball sits in the upper 80s and has been known to graze the 90 miles-per-hour barrier, while Ebert breaks that barrier every couple of pitches.
When Smith worked a three up, three down ninth for the first save of the season against the top team in the Western Major Baseball League, he relied on movement and a lights out slider to get the job done.
“Craig has been the best at locking it down this year. He is up there, pounding the zone and I think he has one of the best breaking balls in the league. When you’re down in the count against him, there’s not much you can do. Might as well just walk back to the dugout, because it’s over,” said Ebert.
The previous record for saves in a single season was a relatively fresh one. Tyler Burdett set the record last summer with 13.
“Honestly, I was surprised it was that low. Okotoks has had a winning program for some time, but maybe there weren’t as many save situations for those other closers compared to all the close games this year,” said Dawgs Pitching Coach Joe Sergent, who witnessed every inning Burdett threw last season. “Burdett was a beast. I’ve never seen anyone attack hitters the way he did with just a two-seam fastball. And he let you know it too; he wore his emotions on his sleeve and he didn’t care what other people thought.
“Smith is much different. He attacks hitters with three different pitches and is much more reserved and doesn’t let anything bother him. Although, every once in a while, after a big out, you’ll see a tiny fist pump from Smith, that’s how you know it was a big moment.”
Ebert and Smith have been the most winingest combination for the Dawgs and Sergent to call upon. Smith has picked up saves in four of Ebert’s starts.
“These guys have been as rock solid as it gets and they have been great for our locker room. They came in and were leaders on this team because they have been leaders at their junior college and leaders at Columbia College. That’s all they know how to do,” said Schmidt.
In his final regular season start with the Dawgs, the 6-foot-4 Ebert became the franchise leader in strikeouts with 65, and is tied for secod all-time with six wins.
“We’ve started to pitch Cody every five days. He wants to play pro ball next year, so we are trying to get his body ready for that. He might not throw the Oklahoma bye-you fastball anymore as he’s tired out a bit, but he has figured out how to get guys out with his slider and that there are certain guys in this league that he doesn’t have to gas up to get out,” said Schmidt.
With the ink drying on the Dawgs’ record books, both pitchers know that this could be the last run together in what has been an enjoyable four-year experience.
“Playing together for all this time has been great and it’s been an amazing summer. Hopefully we have a little more ball left in us, but it has been a great ride together,” said Smith.