Apr 27, 2010

Pitching for perfection: Tiffani Smith

by Ryan Carr

With eight games remaining in the 2010 regular season, the Lady Flames softball team has already had a very impressive season and are eager to finish even stronger.  

The Lady Flames have won more games this year than last, as they currently hold a 33-12 record. Liberty has improved in all areas of the game as the team has matured and gotten closer to each other. 

“The biggest difference is we all trust each other and we all have confidence in each other. I know if I strike out one time, someone’s going to come up behind me and step it up. We just mesh really well this year,” junior Cassie Hendrix said.  

The Lady Flames have been led all season by a core group of juniors that have stepped up their game to a whole new level. One of the standouts of this group of juniors is pitcher Tiffani Smith. Smith has posted an 18-4 record this season while on the mound for the Lady Flames.   

Smith has been a force to be reckoned with this year, picking up 183 strikeouts and having her way with opposing batters. She has been named The Crons Brand Pitcher of The Week for the Big South Conference three times this season, more than any other pitcher in the conference.  

“Last year, I really think Tiffani was the best pitcher in the Big South, and she didn’t get Pitcher of the Year but she should have and I think this year she’s been a little more motivated,” Head Coach Paul Wetmore said. 

“This is my third year, so experience has helped me with competing at this level and this has been my dream since I was 10. I’m just living my dream and having fun and working hard and just trusting God with the outcome and results,“ Smith said.

 While experience has been a tremendous asset to Smith this season, she has needed to become a leader and share her experiences with freshman pitchers Katie Warrington and Katrina Johnson. 

“She’s a steadying force,” Wetmore said. “In the last month, we have gone to her and said ‘you’re a junior you’re the number one pitcher on this team you need to be a leader.’ She stepped up and really has done that.”

Coach Wetmore is not the only person who has noticed Smith stepping into a leadership role. 

“She’s done a fantastic job,” junior catcher Ashley Bensinger said. “She’s always encouraging the younger pitchers. She’s definitely led by example and even when they are discouraged, she just picks them up.”

Smith’s dominance on the field has allowed her team to play confidently behind her on the field and stay relaxed at the plate. The Lady Flames have been ranked as high as eighth in the nation defensively, according to Coach Wetmore. The offense has also been impressive this season, scoring 264 runs so far as opposed to 172 last year.  

“When we go out there and she strikes out a whole bunch of people, which is usually the case, that gives us such a surge,” Bensinger added.  “We just want to do well for her. We want to put runs there for her and she obviously returns that.”

While Smith has had a successful year on a personal level, she fully understands and appreciates the hard work that her teammates have put in for her to succeed. 

“I’m confident with my teammates behind me in the lineup and on the field,” said Smith. “We have a great defensive team out there and everyone just works so hard at practice and we have meshed and come together really well as a team off the field so that helps a lot.”

Smith has worked hard to improve upon her skills even while dominating conference batters. Smith has held conference opponents winless this season going 8-0 and allowing a mere six runs on 20 hits. She has also maintained an impressive 0.69 ERA against Big South opponents.  

“It’s always tough when you play each year the same teams the same hitters and they know what you have,” Smith said. “I just wanted to be more efficient on my pitches and my location and just work on my spins.”

Added Bensinger: “I can really see a lot of maturity in Tiffani. Last year, sometimes when she would get behind in a count she might lose focus, but this year she constantly stays focused and always has a positive attitude on the mound.”

With the season wrapping up and the conference tournament lurking right around the corner, it is clear that Smith and the Lady Flames have every intention of making it to the championship game for the third year in a row. This year, however, the Lady Flames want to do more and are confident that Smith can help them do just that. 

“Tiffani just has the will this year. You can just see she has the drive to just take us all the way,” Cassie Hendrix said. “We are going to get to that championship game in conference this year and we are going to win it so I’m excited for that.”

 

Contact Ryan Carr 

at rmcarr2@liberty.edu. 


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