Junior pitcher was also school's top basketball player

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AZTEC — The Aztec baseball team has a good chance of winning when junior Cody Smith is on the mound.

Throughout the season, head coach Wes Laplatt has said he's confident the team will come away victorious when Smith starts. And that's been the case. So far this spring, Smith has piled up a 5-1 record with four complete games. The lone loss came in a 4-3 decision to Farmington in extra innings.

Smith served as a regular starter for the Tigers last season. But this year it took him a little longer to find his comfort level on the baseball field.

During the winter, Smith played basketball, starting at forward for the Tigers and nearly averaged a double-double with 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game — both team highs. With the basketball and baseball seasons overlapping, Smith missed the first few weeks of practices with the baseball team.

Even though he was still winning games on the mound and producing at the plate, Smith needed a little extra time for his skills set to transition from the hardwood to the diamond.

"I guess I was just late into every sport. I was late into basketball after football and late into baseball after basketball. I think my footwork and mechanics were off, and I had to find the rhythm," Smith said.

But on Thursday, Smith showed the transition was complete in a dominant performance against Kirtland Central, holding the Broncos to two runs in four innings on the way to a win.

"He's making adjustments with his breaking pitches to get them down and away, and when he gets that going he's tough to hit," Laplatt said after the win over KC. "He didn't leave anything up in the zone, and he worked out of some problems early (in the game)."

At the plate, Smith drove in four runs against KC.

The win over the Broncos keeps Aztec in the chase for the District 1-5A crown.

The Tigers sit at 4-2 in district action, one game back of Miyamura and Farmington, the two teams that beat them in district.

Aztec will get chances to avenge those losses next week, playing at Farmington on Tuesday and hosting the Patriots in the season finale on April 29.

Should the Tigers overtake the Scorps and Patriots to earn the District 1-5A title, it would give them an automatic bid into the 5A state tournament. But even if they don't win the title, Aztec are a virtual certainty to receive an at-large bid.

Last season, the Tigers made it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but lost in the quarterfinals to St. Pius X.

Even though the season ended with a 5-2 loss to the Sartans, Smith said the experience and confidence the Tigers received from the trip to the quarterfinals will be valuable in the coming weeks as they try to improve on last year's performance.

"I think the experience will help. (Last year) we were playing tight, but this year our nerves will be down a little bit," Smith said. "We'll have those moments when we know we've already been there and have a little more confidence."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648. 

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