Arkansas pitcher strikes out ... well, nearly everyone

Smith, No. 15 Draft prospect, dominates with program-tying 17-strikeout performance

February 24th, 2024

Hagen Smith’s 2024 debut saw MLB Pipeline’s No. 15 Draft prospect throw just 42 pitches for Arkansas, while giving up a three-run home run in just one inning against James Madison.

So how did the left-hander respond in his next start against No. 7 Oregon State on Friday night? Only by tying the program's single-game strikeout record.

Incredibly, each of Smith's first 15 outs were all strikeouts, with 12 coming from swings and misses. He added two more strikeouts in the sixth inning before being pulled, ending with a see-to-believe stat line: six innings pitched, three hits and zero runs allowed and 17 strikeouts. He walked off the mound having cemented his place in Arkansas history.

“It was all about getting the first pitch for a strike,” Smith said. “Being ahead the whole time, I felt like I was able to free up the zone.”

Smith's arsenal is impressive, featuring a fastball that sits at 92-95 mph and can reach up to 98. His strongest pitch, however, is an 82-85 mph slider that boasts sweep and depth, proving devastating to left-handed hitters and effective against right-handers. He also uses an upper-80s splitter as a change of pace. Smith's unique delivery, which includes a low-three-quarters slot and some crossfire action, makes his pitches difficult to read, contributing to his record-tying performance.

Smith was so locked in that he blocked out any outside noise. He didn’t even realize he had completed the feat until he returned to the dugout.

“I wish I could’ve gone one more [inning],” Smith said. “I had some good defense behind me tonight and it was a good win.”

Last season, Smith posted an 8-2 record with a 3.64 ERA and struck out 109 batters over 71 2/3 innings, earning him All-American honors as a sophomore.

Before arriving in Fayetteville, he was a highly regarded high school prospect from Bullard, Texas. However, Smith suffered a significant arm injury during his sophomore year and missed his entire junior season.

Smith has a history of making strong comebacks. He threw seven no-hitters -- seven! -- upon returning to the mound for his senior season, tying a Texas high school record. His performance garnered enough interest for him to be considered a pick within the first three rounds of the Draft, but he was firmly committed to becoming a Razorback, a program which he is now inextricably linked for one of the premier pitching performances of the 21st century.