Evan Smith was wrapping up his pregame phone conversation with his father, Justin, last Monday afternoon when he realized he might be late to his Huntingtown High baseball game. His mother, Allison, hadn’t returned from her shopping trip to pick up Evan at their Huntingtown home.

Justin saw there was a crash near the high school and told Evan his mom was probably sitting in traffic and he would drive him to the game. After their conversation, however, Evan found photos online of the wreck, and one of the cars involved looked like the blue Suzuki XL7 SUV his mom was driving.

When Justin arrived at Allison’s home, a local sheriff was in the front yard. That’s when they learned Allison Carroll Smith, 49, was involved in the crash, and she succumbed to her injuries at a hospital, according to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office.

After one of the hardest weeks of his life, Evan was presented with the opportunity to start on the mound Friday. Dedicating the game to his mom, the sophomore left-hander threw a complete game in six innings in the Hurricanes’ 15-4 win at Great Mills.

“Right after the game, I obviously knew the team won the game but that I also had a personal victory because I knew I overcame my emotions and led my team,” Evan Smith, 16, wrote in an email. “I knew the whole game [I] was pitching for my mom. It just meant so much to me to have success.”

Over the past year, Evan had been working out almost every day in his garage to prepare for his first high school season. He lost his freshman season because of the coronavirus pandemic, and he knew he would only get three or four starts with this spring’s condensed schedule.

As Evan waited for a ride at his mom’s home after a day of virtual school, Huntingtown High baseball coach Guy Smith received text messages from his players, informing him they would be late because of a crash near the school. Later, one of his players’ parents who works in law enforcement informed the coach that Evan’s mom was involved in the wreck. The coach pulled his players off the field during warmups and sat them down in the bullpen. He informed them of the crash and postponed the game.

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is sit in front of 20 kids,” Guy Smith said, “and tell them their teammate’s mother just passed.”

The next day, Justin Smith asked the coach if Evan could throw a bullpen session, sensing his son could benefit from a distraction. Baseball has always been Evan’s passion. Soon after he learned to walk, Evan hit miniature plastic balls around his house with an oversized Wiffle ball bat. After the Nationals moved to D.C., Evan watched a game at RFK Stadium from his parents’ shoulders.

That day, Evan threw in the bullpen for about 30 minutes. He returned to reality the next day when he visited the funeral home where his mother would be buried, picking the coffin and flowers for the ceremony. On Thursday, Evan went to Annapolis to select a suit to wear to the funeral.

“At that point it’s becoming more real,” Justin said. “Before that, he’s thinking it’s a bad dream.”

Allison was known for a bright smile that brought family and friends together. Whenever Evan opened the front door to her home, he said his mom grinned, yelled “Greetings!” and asked Evan about his day. Regardless of how Evan performed on the field, Evan remembers Allison always feeling proud of him after games.

Baseball continued to be Evan’s outlet as he grieved. He attended Huntingtown’s games Wednesday and Thursday, wanting to be around his teammates. When he threw another 15-pitch bullpen session Thursday, Evan said he felt adrenaline surging through him. He knew he wanted to pitch soon, and his turn in the rotation was the next day for his second varsity start. Evan believed he had nothing to lose.

On Friday, Evan completed his 45-minute pregame routine — throwing with a weighted ball and doing extra stretches — at Great Mills. Justin told Evan the game could go one of two ways: He could be unstoppable, mirroring former NFL quarterback Brett Favre after his father’s death in 2003, when he famously threw for 399 yards in his Green Bay Packers’ win. Or he could be exhausted and need to step away from the mound.

Guy Smith worried it might be the latter; Evan’s first four pitches didn’t come near the strike zone. But he settled in after that, and when the final inning arrived, the coach prayed Evan would earn the win. He did, striking out eight batters and allowing one earned run. When Evan retired the side in the sixth, Justin and Evan’s older sister, Mykala, hugged behind the backstop, and Huntingtown players rushed out of the dugout to embrace Evan.

After the game, Evan grabbed his gear and walked to the team bus with his teammates. His life had been irregular over the past week, and it would continue to be so in the coming days as his family held a visitation and a funeral, so he wanted to follow the team’s usual postgame routine.

When he celebrates his mom’s life at her funeral Monday, Evan plans to place the game ball in her coffin.

“My mom always said after every game, ‘You did so great today,’ and literally I [would’ve] had the [worst] game ever,” Evan wrote. “That was the way she always was, just forever positive. I wanted the performance to be great, but I knew to her, regardless of how I did, she would have said that it was great.”

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