BANGOR, Maine — Olivia Smith stands only 5-foot-4, but Husson University softball coach Terren Allen is quick to point out that height doesn’t have much to do a player’s ability to drive the ball.
Smith validates her coach’s belief.
The Eagles’ junior right fielder from Calais leads the North Atlantic Conference in batting average with a .489 mark, she also leads in homers (5), slugging percentage (.811) and total bases (73).
Smith ranks second in the conference in doubles (10), runs batted in (27) and hits (44) as Husson prepares for the the four-team, double-elimination NAC tournament beginning Friday at O’Keefe Field in Bangor.
“She has a lot of power,” said Allen. “She has had a great year. She has been a huge leader for us. She has done everything right this year.”
The Eagles and New England College finished with the same conference winning percentage (.750) although Husson was 6-2 and New England College was 9-3. The Eagles claimed the top seed via tiebreakers and earned the right to host the tournament.
Husson (17-12) and New England College (15-21) will be joined by No. 3 Castleton University (11-15, 7-3 NAC) and No. 4 seed and defending champ Thomas College of Waterville (19-15, 8-4 NAC).
Husson plays Thomas on Friday at 10 a.m. with New England College and Castleton to follow at noon. The losers square off at 2 and the winners meet at 4.
The two survivors with one loss will play at noon on Saturday and that winner faces the unbeaten team at 2 p.m. in the championship round.
A championship game, if necessary, would be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Smith has made steady progress since stepping foot on the Husson campus. After hitting .216 as a freshman, when she also pitched, she batted .343 last year with a homer and 21 runs batted in, which tied for second on the team.
“She built on her freshman and sophomore seasons and now she has really gotten it,” Allen said. “She has a good mental approach. Everything has started to click for her.”
Smith said added experience has been beneficial.
“I know the game and everything is coming slower to me now,” she said.
“I know the pitch count, what pitches I should be taking and which ones I should be swinging at. I’m being smart yet aggressive and that’s huge,” said Smith.
Smith has been a bit surprised by her numbers, but credits her production in part to her work ethic.
“I work hard and it’s nice to have something like this come to me. I just go up there and hope for the best,” said Smith, a right-handed hitter whose six stolen bases rank second on the team.
She was an outstanding pitcher at Calais High School and helped the Blue Devils reach the 2014 state championship game where she pitched a two-hitter against Madison but lost 1-0.
Smith (4-4, 6.88 earned run average) has made 11 appearances this season. She didn’t pitch last year after making eight appearances as a freshman.
She hasn’t let her up-and-down year in the circle impact her hitting.
“I just go out and play hard every game for my teammates, my coaches and myself,” Smith said.
“She really has a positive mindset up to bat and that has helped her out a lot,” said Husson senior left fielder and co-captain Brianna Bires.
Smith also was a guard on the Calais basketball team that won the state title in 2014 with a 52-40 win over Carrabec of North Anson. She had six points and eight rebounds.
Smith said softball has always been her first love and that her decision to attend Husson wasn’t a difficult one.
“I wanted to play softball and Husson had sport management so it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Smith.
She had a memorable seven-game stretch this season when she went 18-for-24 with six doubles, a homer, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs. That earned her ECAC North Division III Player of the Week honors.
“I just go up there and try to do my best and, hopefully, I’ll get the outcome that I wanted. That week I certainly did,” said Smith.
She is looking forward to the tournament and to playing on her home field.
“We’re definitely ready to play,” said Smith.
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