Every good baseball team needs a solid one-two punch in its pitching rotation to even think of having success.
The New York Mets have Tom Glavine and El Duque, the New York Yankees have Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina and the Eastport / South Manor High School team has Greg Smith and Ken Frosch.
The latter two helped lead ESM to the New York State Class A semifinals last season and compliment each other well on the mound. Smith is a fire throwing righty, while Frosch, a southpaw, offers an array of off-speed pitches.
They have one thing in common, though. They’re pitching pillars, supporting a Shark team, that saw nine seniors graduate and needs them to bookend a handful of core players who are ready to capture the school’s first state title and etch their names into Long Island sports history.
At last year’s Class A Long Island Championship, Smith shutdown a powerful Garden City team, 5-1, and helped ESM leap into the New York State playoffs, but were stopped when he let up three singles and eventually a grand slam to Section I’s Our Lady of Lourdes in the seventh and final inning of the game.
Games like the Long Island title bout has Smith focused to succeed and compete with the best, and games like the state semifinal have him chomping at the bit to comeback this year and carry his school to the promise land.
“In any key situation he wants to be the guy on the mound,” head coach Bob Salamone says. “He does very well in pressure situations.”
Smith, who will pitch at UNC-Greensboro next year, led the Sharks with a 10-2 record and a 1.01 ERA, and delivered on the offensive side of the ball with a .393 average, hitting leadoff.
There is nothing unconventional about Smith’s success. It’s simple, “I work hard all year long,” says Smith, who played for the South Florida Bandit tournament team last summer. “I got bigger and stronger and that helped.”
He was also modest and straightforward when discussing the no-hitter he threw in the first game of the 2006 season against Miller Place.
“I was surprised about throwing that,” he says. “It just happened and I wouldn’t mind throwing a perfect game now.”
Smith’s money pitch is his fastball, which tops out between 89 and 91 MPH, and he has mastered a high comfort level of control when dishing out the heat. He throws a curveball, slider and changeup as well and wanted to fine tune his game before this season, so he starting taking pitching lessons at All-Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, NY in the fall.
Smith, last year’s Suffolk’s League VI MVP, worked with All-Pro owner and former Yankees’ pitcher Paul Gibson, who has a proven track record of producing college and major league prospects, including his own son Glenn, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals out of Center Moriches High School last year.
“Greg is going to have a great season this year and has an even better future ahead,” Gibson says. “He is one of the better players on Long Island in his ability to turn his game up a notch whenever he wants and that’s just not teachable.”
Salamone also realizes his competitive nature and opted not to take Smith out after giving up the four runs in the state semifinals.
“Up until then he’d thrown full games almost all year,” Salamone recalls. “I couldn’t pull him. I don’t know if he’d give me the ball anyway if I went out there.”
Smith also made a point to work out for baseball during his varsity basketball season. He has one goal this year, to get back to states and finish the job he started last year.
“He was our guy last year,” says Salamone, who mentioned Smith is among the top 10 players he’s coach in his 32 year tenure.
Salamone needs Smith to be his guy this year too and it shouldn’t be a problem. He’ll try to surpass the 101 strikeout and 83 inning marks, which he ended with last year and improve on his remarkable 12 earned runs allowed.
Frosch pitches a different game. His best pitch is a looping curve ball that drops off the table and has opposing hitter’s perplexed and stunned when the pitch they thought was waste high, lands at their ankles and their swing is like a hack on the golf course.
Unlike Smith, who has been on varsity since ninth grade and wowed the varsity coaching staff with consecutive outings of 18 and 19 strikeouts as a freshman, Frosch’s first varsity season was last year. He was utilized out of the bullpen, but will be the No. 2 starter this season.
“It’s nice to know we have this one-two punch to work around,” Salamone says. “They’re leaders on the mound and are key player’s everyday.”
Frosch doesn’t overpower anyone, yet still finds ways to close out or win games. He was 4-1 last year with a 1.65 ERA and made the most important start of his career in the first game of the Class A Suffolk County Championships against League VI rival Harborfields, who had All-State pitcher Mario Piscitelli on the hill.
Aside from shutting down Harborfields for six innings, giving up six hits and throwing a gem which put him on the radar as one of the best multi-use pitchers on Long Island, Frosch was helped by Smith, who closed the game out in an ironic role reversal.
“Ken goes out there and gets it done,” Smith says. “He did a great job of starting it and I was there for him to close it out.”
Smith threw a complete game the following day and ESM beat Harborfields 6-4, pushing ESM to the Long Island title round.
The Sharks finished 17-3 overall and 13-2 in league play and will move up to League V this season, which features perennial favorites Kings Park (18-0), Islip (14-8) and Sayville (14-8).
Willie Randolph and Joe Torre may know who their aces are, but they aren’t as confident as Salamone.