Connections come easy for reunited BombersJune 21, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
HUNTINGBURG — In summer-league baseball, where the roster turns over year after year after year, it’s vital for members of the Dubois County Bombers to gain a connection with one another as quickly as possible. It’s a little easier when two of the teammates have known each other since they were 5.
Catcher Trey Fulton and outfielder/pitcher Brandon Smith fit the bill, since both played their high school baseball at Floyd Central and will soon be teammates at the University of Dayton.
“We’ve played together since we were 11 years old and we’ve always been competitors on the same team,” Smith said. “That’s just who we are, that’s just our nature.”
Smith’s third home run in the last two games and Fulton’s team-leading 14th RBI of the season helped seal Dubois County’s 8-2 win over the Paducah Chiefs on Tuesday at League Stadium, where the Bombers ran their win streak to nine games. Manager Andy Lasher said that the familiarity between Fulton and Smith has worked wonders on the field — especially when Smith is on the mound.
“They grew up playing together from the time they were kids, so you can expect them to do some more things together than guys who are pitching and catching together for the first time,” Lasher said.
Fulton often was the catcher paired with Smith in high school, where the two helped Floyd Central achieve the top ranking in Class 4A. That link between pitcher and catcher has remained constant over the years even as the two went their separate ways after graduating from Floyd Central in 2015. Fulton hit .311 with three home runs in his recently concluded sophomore season at Olney Central College in Illinois, while Smith appeared in four games at the University of Dayton in his first year of eligibility after being redshirted in the 2016 season.
“After we were playing against Hoptown the other night, Brandon came up to me in the dugout and he said, ‘Man, I miss you catching me all the time in high school,’” Fulton said. “He thinks I’ve helped to make him a better pitcher and I think that he’s helped me to make a better catcher, so it’s definitely nice having that high school connection for sure.”
Fulton and Smith have another former high school teammate in the mix this summer with first baseman Philip Archer, as all three played together at Floyd Central and have rekindled the spark this summer for the Bombers (14-2), who already lead the Ohio Valley League’s East Division by 5 1/2 games and are unbeaten in eight games at League Stadium. Hitting back-to-back in the fifth and sixth slots in the order, respectively, Archer and Smith have combined for 14 RBIs over the last two games.
“Whenever you have people you know and you’re more comfortable with, you’re always going to have the edge when you play better,” Smith said. “You want to have the talent, but the better the guys work together, the better you’re going to play.”
Fulton remembers coaches from Dayton visiting him while he was in high school, and he and Smith had tossed around the idea in high school about playing together at Dayton. But Fulton had already decided on Olney Central and wanted to honor the commitment.
But while playing at a showcase at Indiana State University, Dayton coaches took notice of Fulton once again and wanted him to make a visit and consider transferring from junior college to a Division I school. The visit went well for Fulton, and there was one major factor that played a part in his decision to transfer — being reunited with his high school friend.
“There was no doubt that I wanted to go to Dayton to be with Brandon,” Fulton said. “We were high school buddies and we had known each other since we were 5, so you could say we were pretty excited about it.”
After having Tommy John surgery his freshman season, Smith wanted to find somewhere to play baseball during the summer to ease back onto the field. He came to League Stadium last summer to watch Fulton play in his first season with Dubois County, and Smith expressed to his buddy that he wouldn’t mind latching on with the Bombers.
So Fulton did what friends do and put in a good word with Lasher, who coached Fulton with both the Bombers and at Olney Central.
“Brandon told me that it would be awesome to play for the Bombers because he wanted to stay local just like myself,” Fulton said. “So I threw his name at Lasher and he just jumped all over it.”
Those type of connections can help ease some of the summer grind, too — particularly a grueling stretch the Bombers just began. They’re playing games on 16 consecutive days, a gamut that began Monday and ends the Fourth of July.
“We’ve been a pretty solid team,” Smith said, “but we gotta go out there and make sure that we’re not just playing; we have to be playing to win.”
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