When you have a team batting average of .427, score a total of 238 runs and have 20 home runs – which the Thunderbirds’ fastpitch team did – Smith knew she could count on power at the plate and run production from her teammates.
“It was a lot of relief pitching-wise,” said Smith, who will play at Western Washington next season. “My team could put runs on the board for me.”
In one of the best offensive seasons by a Tumwater team during the 15-year tenure of coach Clay Hill, the T-Birds averaged 9.1 runs per game. And with Smith, The Olympian’s All-Area Fastpitch Player of the Year in the pitcher’s circle, the team had a chance to win every game.
And win they did.
This spring was one of Tumwater’s best seasons in program history. The T-Birds won the 2A Evergreen Conference regular-season title, and they won spots in both the 2A District IV title game and the 2A state championship game. In both postseason title games, the opponent was a familiar one – W.F. West.
Tumwater won all three regular-season games against the Bearcats, 4-0, 7-6, and 4-3. But W.F. West topped the T-Birds, 5-4, for the district title, and beat them again for the state title at Carlon Park in Selah, 15-3, last Saturday. Tumwater finished with a 23-3 record.
Despite a sour taste from her final high school game, Smith said her senior season was one to remember.
“Even though we got second place, I can honestly say that we probably have the best team right now,” said Smith, the pitching MVP of the EvCo in each of the past two years. “We’re a big family and a group of sisters.”
Hill said the team wouldn’t have had the season it did without Smith, a hard-throwing right-hander whose pitches consistently reach the 62-65 mph range. She tallied a career-high 183 strikeouts – her second straight season of 180 or more strikeouts – had five consecutive shutouts between April 13-20, gave up just two home runs and sported a 1.61 earned-run average.
In the 2A state championship loss to W.F. West, only seven of the 15 runs allowed were earned.
“Her main thing is she has relentless power,” Hill said. “She’s fairly accurate.”
While many pitchers in high school fastpitch have two or three pitches they rely on, Smith has eight in her repertoire: fastball, change-up, screwball, dropball, riseball, curveball, offspeed drop and offspeed curve.
Mainly a riseball pitcher in the past, Smith said she needed to spice things up for her senior season, given the talent returning to opposing teams.
The change-up is the one pitch she developed while working with former University of Washington softball coach Teresa Wilson, whose three-year stint as pitching coach at Arizona ended in 2011. Smith’s delivery also changed slightly, starting with a twisting motion before her windup to hide the ball from opposing players.
“I had to come back and have something different,” Smith said. “All those girls coming back were going to be laying off the high stuff.”
Not only was Smith in control in the circle, she was one of many big bats in the lineup for the T-Birds.
She hit cleanup for most of the season, driving in 31 runs with a .389 batting average.
She came up clutch in key situations, too, including a two-run home run in the third inning against W.F. West in the state championship game to tie the game at 3-all.
She was second behind teammate Alyssa Ubrun for home runs with four.
Hill said she never had Smith bunt once this season, and for good reason.
“She’s big and strong, and at any time, she has the chance to pop one,” he said.
THE OLYMPIAN’S ALL-AREA FASTPITCH TEAM
Player of the Year
Kierstin Smith, sr., pitcher, Tumwater
With Smith in the circle, Tumwater had one of its best seasons in program history, finishing 23-3 after advancing to the 2A state championship game. Smith had a career-best 183 strikeouts, posted six shutouts and also had a .389 batting average with 31 RBI.
Coach of the Year
Mike Keen, W.F. West
Keen guided the Bearcats to their first state title since 2000.
P Brooke Goldsmith, so., Elma
With Goldsmith pitching, the Eagles took the Southwest Washington 1A Evergreen Division championship. She registered her third-career no-hitter in the season opener, and also had five shutouts.
P Haley Graham, sr., W.F. West
The Bearcats rode the arm of their left-handed ace to the 2A state championship. At the plate, the Pacific (Ore.) commit had a team-high .517 batting average.
C Jordanne Krumpols, sr., Shelton
SPSCC signee and position co-MVP of the 4A Narrows League had a rocket arm behind the plate and a big bat. Her .429 average led the team and she also had 22 stolen bases. Can play anywhere on the field except pitcher, coach Kim Golsby said.
OF Alyssa Ubrun, so., Tumwater
T-Birds’ left fielder had a breakout season, earning EvCo’s offensive MVP. Had team-highs in batting average (.613), hits (49), RBI (46) and home runs (nine).
OF Marissa Reynolds, jr., W.F. West
Broke own school record with eight home runs this spring. Batted .455, including .444 in the three district tournament games.
OF Gabby Vidallon, so., Tumwater
The speedy right fielder scored 42 runs and totaled 48 hits with a .558 batting average for the 2A EvCo regular-season champions.
INF Parker Pocklington, jr., Centralia
First-team all-EvCo player and Arkansas commit was the heart of the Tigers’ infield for first-year coach Candy Hallom, getting the team to within one victory of earning a 2A state tournament berth.
INF Dani Braun, sr., W.F. West
UW signee is slick with the glove and is tough for opposing pitchers to face; she failed to strikeout all season. Batted .490 and guided the Bearcats to the 2A state title.
INF Tessa Matthews, jr. Yelm
After splitting time between shortstop and pitcher last year, Matthews became the Tornados’ full-time shortstop this season. She batted .418 and had a .922 fielding percentage, leading Yelm to the district tournament.
INF Gabby Braniff, jr., Olympia
The Bears’ third baseman had a .988 fielding percentage and batted .400 in 4A Narrows League play. Eleven of her 25 hits were for extra bases, including four triples.
UT Nikki Schroeder, jr., Olympia
First-team all-Narrows honoree saw time at pitcher, shortstop, first base and catcher. Was 5-1 in the pitcher’s circle and batted .435 during league play.