When Houston coach Brent Hall saw Caleb Smith’s robust batting average, he went to his statitician to ask how many of those hits were legitimate.
“He said he can only remember one hit that he was iffy about,” Hall said.
Smith hit a sizzling .537 his junior season, leading the conference in batting average to earn first-team All-SCA honors. He was joined on the first team by Kirk Pierce, one of five Tigers who received all-conference honors.
Senior Tom Oakley was a second-team selection at first base. Center fielder David Weybright and pitcher A.J. Castleman were honorable mention picks.
Smith was the offensive catalyst in the No. 2 hole for the Tigers, leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage (.643), hits (29), runs (27), stolen bases (14) and hit by pitches (14). He was also second on the team with five doubles and three triples and third with 16 runs batted in.
Hall said Smith’s batting average was easily the highest in his 10-year tenure with the Tigers. The previous high was .505.
“He probably had our best overall year out of everybody,” Hall said.
Smith, who only struck out five times in 54 at-bats, saw plenty of good pitches in front of Pierce. He didn’t miss many.
“It seemed like every ball he hit was right on the money,” Hall said. “He’s aggressive. A lot of our kids didn’t have that. When he got in the box, he was ready to hit.”
Pierce, who started every game of his four-year career with the Tigers, landed on the first team for the third straight year. He was among the conference’s top five hitters with a .458 batting mark and led Houston with nine doubles, four triples and 27 RBIs. He was second behind Smith with 27 hits, 24 runs, 10 steals and a .577 on-base percentage.
Pierce took on a new role his senior season as one of the Tigers’ top pitchers. He went 4-3 with a 4.28 ERA and struck out 43 batters in 34 1/3 innings.
Pierce didn’t produce the same offensive numbers that earned his first-team all-state honors last season. But he still enjoyed another standout year.
“First-team all-conference is kind of the status quo for Kirk,” Hall said. “It’s honestly probably not his best year in high school. But even though he had a down year, if it wasn’t for Kirk we wouldn’t have won a lot of games this year. He was a rock in our lineup batting third.”
Oakley was thrust into the starting lineup after going 1-for-11 all of last year. He responded with a .339 batting average and .473 on-base percentage as Houston’s clean-up hitter.
“He wasn’t very happy with his season. He thought he struck out too many times,” Hall said. “But what I tried to preach to Tom is that when you bat fourth, you see people’s best pitches. He didn’t feel confident about his season, but I thought he did great.”
Oakley was second on the team with 20 RBIs and five doubles. He scored 18 runs and was third with nine stolen bases.
“No matter what sport he’s played, you could always count on and depend on Tom,” Hall said. “We could have put him anywhere and he would have succeeded.
Weybright made a smooth transition from batting ninth last year to leading off his junior season with the Tigers. Although he batted .286, Weybright was among the team leaders with a .430 on-base percentage. He scored 20 runs and stole eight bases.
Weybright, who is only 16, solidified Houston’s defense in center field.
“He ended up being our best fielder, and he came on as the year went at the plate,” Hall said. “I think his best years are to come because he’s so young.”
Castleman, who struggled with a leg injury early in the year, came on strong late as the team’s top pitcher. He went 4-3 with a 4.29 ERA and struck out a team-high 61 batters in 47 1/3 innings.
Offensively, Castleman batted .280 with 12 RBIs and a .478 on-base percentage as Houston’s fifth hitter.