If Katlyn Smith's freshman campaign wasn't impressive enough, what the sophomore hurler has accomplished during her sophomore season is simply historic.
Smith – a Loganville, Ga. native – has led the Scots to back-to-back USA South Athletic Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championships in her two seasons wearing Orange and Garnet. She posted her 300th career strikeout in a 5-0 shutout victory over Averett in the championship.
"That's a crazy stat for her to get in just two years of play," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "She's not pitching every single game. She's just so consistent, and that started her freshman year. She's just a consistent for us. Going into that game, the girls were the ones that actually brought it to my attention of where she was with the strikeouts. The whole game, we were all keeping count, but nobody would say it or talk about it. It was an exciting moment for her."
Smith looks to lead Maryville College into the program's second-straight NCAA Regional this weekend. MC takes on No. 7 Trine University on Friday, May 10. First pitch in Greencastle, Ind. is slated for 2 p.m.
"For the team, it was a standard that we knew that we needed to reach, especially after last year," Smith said. "We talked about it from day one – going and doing it over again. For me, knowing that this is my last year right now, it means so much more. I know that I get to play extra softball. We could have been done before conference tournament. This is just extra games that I get to spend on the field doing what I love – something I've done for so long – and not letting it be over yet."
MC's success has been following Smith in the circle. This season, the sophomore earned USA South Pitcher of the Year after posting an astonishing 1.33 ERA. She went 21-3 in 26 total appearances, while striking out 178 batters this season.
Smith struck out 8.48 batters per seven innings on the year, earning USA South MVP for the conference tournament.
"That's so impressive that she's doing this as an underclassman," Kelley said. "I think that's what a lot of people forget. She's only been here for two years. She's has a 1.62 ERA and over 300 strikeouts, and that is just so impressive for her and her work ethic. The kid works hard. She's working on the softball field, she has a part-time job, and she's also going to school. Then, she also has a social life, as well. This is a kid that is really showing us how to balance athletics, school and life, and she's doing at such a young age. That's so impressive."
Kelley gave full credit to her assistant coach, Kadey Robinson, for helping Smith reach her potential. She's coached the sophomore the past two seasons, helping her earn USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year last year.
"She comes in, and she does such a great job with the pitcher and pitch calling. She does a lot of homework on the hitters to be prepared, and she pitches Katlyn's best pitches. I think that's what has led Katlyn to be as successful as she is. It's not just her, it's a whole staff that comes with that. It's having a great catcher to throw to, great pitch calling and her hitting her spots."
Smith has a two-year record of 38-6, while tossing 34 complete games. In 281.0 innings, the sophomore has given up just 65 earned runs for a 1.62 ERA.
For Kelley, however, she says that behind every great pitcher is a great catcher. The head coach said Alexus Murray and Smith are both each other's biggest supporters, and that it comes back to working together and being comfortable with each other.
"That's a duo that I don't think I'll ever get to coach again in my life," Kelley said. "I got to coach this duo for two years, and I don't think I'll ever have a duo like that again where they're so supportive each other. They are each other's No. 1 fan."
Murray – a senior catcher for the Scots – said she felt bad during the championship game.
She'd been trying to keep up with Smith's strikeout tally, but it wasn't until one of the parents informed the team that it hit her.
"I was like, 'Oh, no,'" Murray said. "I felt like a really bad friend and catcher for not knowing that. Everyone in the dugout knew, and we just got so excited for her. She was going through a lot that weekend, and that was just a remarkable moment for her."
Once the umpire rung up the batter for her 300th punch out, the Smith pointed straight to Murray in excitement.
Murray called Smith her best friend, as the duo lived just doors apart from each other in the dorm.
"You know, having a relationship with your catcher is everything. I know that if I get a little rattled, I can look at Murray, and she's going to bring me back to where it's just me and her like we're pitching in the bullpen here at school," Smith said. "To have that relationship, being so close, and have that confidence that I know my catcher is there for me and she knows that I'm there for her, we're going to do the best we can as a team."
Smith sits just a dozen strikeouts of Wall of Fame member Donna Clancy's 313 total during her four years as a Scot heading into the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
For her to be mentioned with the names of Clancy and Jamie Edwards Carr – both MC greats – is something she never thought. Not only is she mentioned among those names, but she's made her way there in just two seasons.
"Unbelievable is the only word I can use," Smith said. "Having the opportunity to go out there and work as hard as I've been able to work, and have the confidence that my coaches and my teammates have in me to go out there and do that, it's been unbelievable."
However, Murray said she knew Smith would come in and shine at Maryville College. She played against her in high school, and now, she's been a crucial part of Smith's success at MC.
"Actually, I knew Katlyn before I got here," Murray said. "We played each other in high school, and we're both from Gwinnett County. I knew of her, so I knew when she was coming, like, 'She's going to do good things for us.' Sure enough, she's come in here, and she's killing it. She's shutting it out."