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Former Cerritos High School slugger Sarah Smith slowly becoming Baylor’s big Bear

Former Cerritos High School star Sarah Smith is now one of best players at Baylor University.

Former Cerritos High School star Sarah Smith is now one of best players at Baylor University.

By Loren Kopff

Standing tall at 5’ 10”, Sarah Smith tormented Southern California high school pitchers when she was at Cerritos High, spraying hits to all areas of the outfield and smacking home runs right and left. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Smith recently concluded her freshman season at Baylor University the same way the left her senior season at Cerritos.
Smith was second for the Bears this past season in batting average (.365), slugging (.533) and tied for the second with five home runs. She was also a magnet for the softball, being hit a team-high 14 times. Her performance drew the attention of the Big XII Conference as she was named the Freshman of the Year among the other six schools that field a softball team. In Big XII games alone, Smith led Baylor with a .346 average and a .460 on base percentage.
“I actually didn’t know it even existed,” Smith said of the award. “I was just trying to make at least first or second team All-Big XII. I didn’t even know they had an All-Defensive team either.”
From the time Smith set foot on the field at St. Joseph High for her first Cerritos game on Mar. 6, 2009, she was an instant hit, no pun intended. She spent her freshman season as a catcher and although Cerritos head coach Bob Medina, who took over the coaching duties that season, didn’t know anything about Smith before, he immediately saw the tremendous talent and knew she was something special.
“Probably in my freshman year, I didn’t say that, but as I watched her grow, her sophomore year she developed to an awesome softball player,” Medina said. “In her junior year, she was phenomenal. I don’t even know anybody who was better than her.”
Smith was a 2009 and 2010 Los Cerritos Community News All-Area second team member, both as a catcher. As a sophomore, Smith batted .493 with 37 hits, 28 runs, nine doubles, four triples and three home runs. She was walked 12 times and stole 10 bases.
When Smith was a junior, she was converted to a right fielder and the numbers kept piling high. In Suburban League games alone, Smith batted .667 with 22 hits, 22 runs batted in, 23 runs scored and six home runs. In addition, Smith was the LCCN Player of the Year as well as the Suburban League’s most valuable player. As a senior, Smith went out with a bang, hitting .493 overall with 35 hits, 28 runs, 20 RBI, seven doubles, four home runs and eight stolen bases. This time as a center fielder, Smith left Cerritos as the LCCN Co-Player of the Year.
“What was probably my most reward of coaching Sarah Smith was watching her develop into a phenomenal player,” Medina said.
Smith was also ranked 73rd in ESPN’s top 100 recruits but when she arrived at Baylor, she was in for another change. Smith was asked to move to third base following fall practice, a position the Health Sciences major had never played.
“It was one of the hardest things [I’ve had to do],” Smith said. “It was a big adjustment going from the outfield to the infield because I had never played third before. So I went home during Christmas break and just worked on my fielding a lot. When I came back [to Baylor], it was a lot easier. I guess I adjusted.”
All Smith wanted to do her freshman season was hit over .300, have no errors and work on the mental aspect of the game. By the way she began her collegiate career, those goals were far from being a problem. On Feb. 7 against Illinois State, she batted eighth in the lineup, had a pair of hits and scored twice in a 5-0 opening season victory.
“I just went up there like it was any other game,” Smith said. “I knew it had been a while since I had hit in a regular game. I just went up there like I usually do and everything worked out. It was actually really fun to see the crowd that came out. It was a fun day.
“It was a little harder than I thought it was going to be,” Smith later said of her freshman season. “It was pretty much the physical part of it; just the offseason and the running and the conditioning. That was a little harder than I thought it was. The offseason is a lot longer than the high school season. It’s not as long as the travel ball season.”
Smith would go on to play in 57 of Baylor’s 59 games, starting 56 of them. In 89 fielding chances, Smith made only three errors. The Bears finished this past season at 42-17 overall, but went 10-8 in the Big XII and advanced to the NCAA regionals in College Station,TX where they were eliminated by host Texas A&M.
Of the 61 hits Smith got, six of the biggest came when she faced University of Texas hurler Blaire Luna and four-time All-American, two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and recent National Champion Keilani Ricketts of the University of Oklahoma. Both were the top two pitchers in the conference. Smith went three for five against Ricketts in two games with two RBI and a double and went two for seven against Luna with a double in two games. Smith also hit a solo home run against Oklahoma’s No. 2 pitcher, Michelle Gascoigne.
“I actually have to say I am honored to be able to hit against them,” Smith said. “They are probably the best pitchers to have ever played the game. If they were everything they said they are, I was just going to go up there and try to tip the ball. Anything more than that was going to be extra. I wasn’t going up there trying to do too much.
“The first time against Keilani, I went up there and hit a double,” she added. “I was like, ‘okay, I can do this’. That boosted my confidence and I knew I could hit her.”
Smith is now going to take some time off before going back to Waco, TX in mid August. If her freshman numbers are any indication of the future, then soon people will be calling Smith an NCAA Player of the Year, or All-American, or national champion, or all of the above.
“I coached nine years in college and I know your first year as a freshman you get the jitters just like everyone else,” Medina said. “But wow, you look at Sarah Smith and you see her as a freshman in college and putting up these numbers. Every time I watch her on television she does something phenomenal.”