Gering's Smith takes all-star route back to diamond
     2012-06-07      By Terry Gaston   
So, how busy has your summer been?
Let’s see if the first few weeks since local high school graduations on May 20 have been as busy as that of recent Gering graduate Zach Smith.

Smith, a three-sport standout during the school year and whiz kid on the Gering Post 36 Platte Valley Companies Senior American Legion baseball team, was on the field when the Seniors began their season at Chadron on May 24. He got off to a good start, relieving versatile athlete and starting pitcher Danny O’Boyle with three strikeouts and no hits allowed in the victory.

But the next day, Smith had to report to Western Nebraska Community College for the 18th annual Panhandle Prep All-Star Basketball Game camp.

Smith, a member of the Red team as was former Bulldog teammate Dillon Wademan, scored 11 points in his squad’s 99-80 win May 26 over the Blue, which featured fellow Gering graduates Nate Marquez and Tyler Wallace.

That next Sunday, Smith was at Oregon Trail Park, pitching an eight-strikeout, no-walk complete game in leading the Gering Seniors to a 11-6 victory over the Buckley Bombers.

Last Tuesday, however, Smith had to change his uniform and sport again, this time as a member of the West squad for the 34th annual West Nebraska All-Star Football Game that took place Saturday night at Bearcat Stadium in Scottsbluff.

Although the West lost 20-0 to the East, Smith still left his mark on the game. As the West’s punter, Smith averaged 35.8 yards on five kicks, with a long of 41 and two that forced the East to start at the 21-yard line or deeper.

“To punt was really the only thing I wanted to do,” said Smith, who also had an 11-yard return of a squib kickoff and was called out for at least one tackle. “I felt I could have helped the team a little bit more, and the first two punts went kind of, ugh.”
By night’s end, in spite of the 20-point loss, the sentiment of ugh was gone, however.

“It’s a great feeling afterward, when you are around your teammates from different schools and people with the same goals you have.”
On Sunday, Smith awoke finding his careers in basketball and football completed. No rest for the weary Smith — who let out a big “Whew!” while taking off his pads following the West’s final team meeting on the Bearcat Stadium turf — already had his mind on baseball. It’s his game.

Ironically, Smith shared a WNCC dorm room during the football camp with Chadron’s Austin Brown. After posing for a picture, the two roommates looked at each other and said, “See you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow“ was Sunday and the Chadron Wood Bat Tournament, where Smith and Brown returned to the baseball field. Only this time, Smith wouldn’t have to leave afterward for another all-star game in a different sport.

He can finally settle into Oregon Trail Park and other diamonds around the area, trying to lead Post 36 back to the state tournament for a third straight year.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” Smith said of his schedule the past two weeks. “I’ve only played in four Legion games (before Sunday) and I haven’t had much time to sit back and enjoy the summer yet.”
In a 7-5 Gering loss to Chadron on Sunday, recent roommates Smith and Brown both had two hits. Smith was 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs batted in and a run scored. Brown aided Chadron’s first win over Gering in three tries by going 2-for-2 and scoring two runs.
The games, and maybe a little rest in between dates, are coming, though.

After Tuesday’s home game at Alliance and a Wednesday game at Chappell against the Buckley Bombers, and this weekend’s North Platte Tournament, the Gering Seniors will have home games Tuesday against Oshkosh and June 13 against Wheatland, Wyo.

“It was stressful but this is awesome,” said Smith, who chose baseball over his other athletic choices and will play next year at Western Nebraska Community College. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything. To be around all these guys has been a blast.”

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