Homer-happy Smith leaves hitting legacy in her wake
After clubbing 17 home runs in 2010 and just missing the Illinois single-season home run record, O'Fallon catcher Lauren Smith knew she would have to work even harder in 2011 if she wanted to break the mark of 18 set in 1982 by Becky Clark of Newton.
"I learned last year that pitching is going to be very selective this year, so I needed to pick my half of the plate and just go with that pitch if it's there," Smith said.
And it was, resulting in a record 22 home runs for the Tennessee-Martin signee. Smith also drove in 69 runs from the No. 3 spot in the batting order and hit a Metro-East best .653. Those accomplishments make her a repeat honoree as the Post-Dispatch All-Metro player of the year honors. Smith also was first-team All-Metro in 2009.
In addition to the home run mark, Smith's legacy will leave a lasting impression in other ways:
• Her .653 batting average ranks No. 11 in state history.
• Her 45 career home runs broke the previous record of 43 set by Terri Harbin of Massac County from 1984-87.
• Her 192 career RBIs ranks fifth in the state record book.
• Her 69 RBIs this spring ranks fourth for a single season.
• Her four-year batting average of .559 is No. 8 on the all-time state list.
All those are nice. But in this case, chicks really do dig the long ball.
"It was pretty important," Smith said of the home run mark. "But it wasn't something that I thought about. It wasn't like 'Oh, if I hit a home run, I'm going to break the record.'
"I kind of played the game how it was supposed to be played. I looked for outcomes -- base hits that scored runs. Not so much home runs."
O'Fallon coach Kate Walsh said Smith "is one of the most determined softball athletes I've ever met. When she's not playing, she's watching a game and watching the players. Add her work ethic. ... She hits with so much power."
As a freshman, Smith hit .405 (second-best on the team) with no homers, 14 RBIs and a team-leading eight sacrifices while splitting time with sophomore Ashley Matheis.
The next season, Smith won the starting job and never looked back.
"Splitting time gave her a taste of that, a taste of what she wanted," Walsh said. "The starting job wasn't given to her. Then she kicked it into gear. You could tell that she wanted it."
Smith's ability caught the attention of Tennessee-Martin coach Donley Canary, and when Canary came calling Smith said yes.
"I knew that my catching and my hitting were both good, and I kind of waited it out," Smith said of her college choice. "I knew something was going to happen, and it did. I'm very happy with my choice. I love the girls, I love the school and I love the coaches."