SportsJuly 9, 2024
Van Buren junior Brady Smith shines in a 7-3 win for the Aycorp Fighting Squirrels, leading the team with a stellar 6.1 innings on the mound. Smith’s dedication includes 2-hour commutes for a shot at the Babe Ruth World Series.
Charleston Fighting Squirrels pitcher Brady Smith winds up to throw against the Missouri Bulls in the Capaha Classic on Thursday, June 20, at Capaha Field.
Charleston Fighting Squirrels pitcher Brady Smith winds up to throw against the Missouri Bulls in the Capaha Classic on Thursday, June 20, at Capaha Field.Tony Capobianco ~ tcapobianco@semoball.com

Brady Smith capped an impressive sophomore season by leading Van Buren to its first district championship since 2017.

This summer, he makes regular 2-hour commutes to Charleston to play for the Aycorp Fighting Squirrels 19u team and, more importantly, the Babe Ruth World Series.

Smith said the commutes are “long” and “tiring” but most importantly, “worth it.”

“It’s very exciting. You get away from your boys you’ve been playing with all year around you’re at school with and then come play baseball with boys from two hours away,” Smith said. “I love coming out here to play baseball with coach [Michael] Minner with these boys. It’s been my best summer so far.”

Smith led the Fighting Squirrels on the mound in a 7-3 win over the Missouri Bulls on Thursday, June 20, at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau. He went 6.1 innings allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts.

“It just gets us fired up for this weekend,” Smith said.

Being a young player on a team full of seniors and incoming college freshmen has forced Smith to improve on the fly to keep up with the competition.

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“I just come in, hold a higher standard for myself, make me compete more than staying down there and competing on my level,” Smith said. “It makes me push for more, coming out here and competing.”

Owen Osborne and Jack Evans led the Squirrels with two RBIs each. Bennett Logan, Owen Willis, Will Green, and Brady Swims each collected two hits for the Squirrels.

Noah Spain led the Bulls with two hits and John Harris grounded into a fielder’s choice in the second inning for the Bulls’ only RBI.

The Squirrels' win capped the first of the four-day Capaha Classic. They will be back on Saturday, but first will go to Charleston to host the Big Nuts Classic, a three-day showcase split between Hillhouse Park in Charleston and Cape Central High School, starting with a rivalry game against the Tropics.

It is an important rivalry for Smith, as many key players on the Tropics were a part of the Portageville team that knocked out Van Buren in the Class 2 Sectionals.

“It means a lot because I played against those boys when they beat us in the sectional game,” Smith said. “So it means a lot playing against them and them being national champions, we can come on top, beat them, and put them away.”

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