All hail Smith! No. 6 Draft prospect becomes Arkansas' K king

May 17th, 2024

Hagen Smith was already considered of the most dominant pitchers eligible for the 2024 Draft. Now he'll be cemented in Arkansas' record books as well.

MLB's No. 6 Draft prospect notched his 346th career strikeout in the bottom of the fifth inning during Thursday's game against Texas A&M. And Smith wasn't done there, he fanned 14 over six scoreless innings before departing the Razorbacks' eventual 1-0 loss in 11 innings.

"He's been amazing -- in one word," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said during the game broadcast. "He's been very consistent, he's the same every week in his routine. ... He's very level-headed, very mature. He's the best I've ever had probably."

Through his first two seasons, the left-hander racked up 199 strikeouts. Over that same span, he gave up 20 home runs en route to posting a a 4.15 ERA. But this year, Smith set himself apart, developing into one of the most intimidating pitchers in college ball. The numbers he produced took on a videogame-esque quality.

Over 77 innings, Smith has sported a 1.52 ERA with 150 strikeouts while issuing just 29 walks and serving up only four home runs and passing Nick Schmidt as the school's K record holder. He's posted double-digit strikeout totals in 11 games this season. The junior leads the nation in ERA and K's per nine innings (17.4). If he maintains the pace in those categories, he’ll be the first pitcher since San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg accomplished that feat in 2009.

"I think just having a bunch of good guys around me on our team," Smith said about the key to his success after Thursday's game. "We kind of lift each other up every single day. Whether we walk in the yard or walk in the locker room everybody is ready to go, I think that's what kind of helped me a lot was going into this year knowing everybody was going to support me."

It’s been a long journey for Smith, who needed Tommy John surgery during his sophomore season at Bullard High School (Texas). When he returned for his senior campaign in 2021, he tied a Texas high school record by twirling seven no-hitters.

This may have been Smith’s last regular-season start, but he is likely to pitch in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. With a 42-11 record, the Razorbacks are in line for a considerable seeding when they arrive in Omaha for the Men's College World Series.

But regardless of the outcome, Smith's regular-season college career concluded the same way his prep one did -- in the record books. Now he's expected to start the process over again after hearing his name called on the first day of the Draft in July.