|5/15/2018 1:13:00 PM|
Former Outlaws shine on college diamonds
|Amanda Smith is an impact player. photo provided|
By Tom MauldinA pair of former Sisters High School softball players have added their names to the list of ex-Outlaws who have made an impact for their college softball teams.
Walla Walla Community College freshman Amanda Smith and College of Idaho junior Haylie Hudson are playing key roles in the success of their teams this spring.
Smith, a 6-1 left-handed pitcher and right-handed hitter, has made an immediate impact at WWCC. She is second in the Northwest Athletic Conference in home runs, with 17 (one behind the leader). The Warriors are 35-11 overall and tied for second with a 23-7 record in the NWAC's East Region.
Hudson, a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed hitter, is the Coyotes' closer and in 12 innings has posted a career-best 3.71 ERA. COI finished the season 22-23 overall and 11-16 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
COI Head Coach Al Mendiola pointed out that the closer role is a difficult one. Closers often are brought into the game with runners on base or to face the other team's top hitter. "It's not an easy role," said the long-time coach.
"She has been successful because she now knows her role and has accepted her role on the staff," said Mendiola. "She seems more confident when she is in the circle, and she doesn't try do too much."
As an Outlaw, Hudson was a starter when healthy. She suffered two severe knee injuries that limited her softball time to less than two full seasons at SHS. Only recently at COI has she been playing without a bulky knee brace.
Like all pitchers, Hudson wants innings - and a lot of them. Closers don't get many innings.
In a recent game against Oregon Institute of Technology, Hudson was brought in primarily to face one batter - Tara Moates, arguably the top hitter in the CCC. She induced Moates to groundout and end an OIT threat.
"It has taken me time to understand how my role impacts the team, but I have begun to realize that it is an important aspect that is needed," said Hudson.
Smith was recently named NWAC Player of the Week for the last week of March when she drove in 16 runs as WWCC went 4-2. Though she has made a pair of starts including a shutout, she also has been used in the closer role and has responded impressively.
Twice recently in one-run WWCC leads, Smith came in to pitch with the tying run on third and no outs. Relying on her downward movement pitches, those runners did not score and WWCC picked up a pair of wins.
"She gets better each week," said Warrior Pitching Coach Tom Mauldin. "If she continues to display the type of work ethic she's shown this year, she'll certainly develop into one of the NWAC's top pitchers."
But while her pitching is opening eyes, her hitting has been making headlines.
In 45 games, Smith is hitting .374 with 17 homers and 54 runs batted in. She has a three-homer game and in one game, homered twice in the first inning. In 15 games pitching, she is 2-3 with a pair of saves, a 4.63 ERA and in 39 innings has struck out 30 batters.
"Her work ethic has increased as she has had success and has seen how putting in extra time is paying off for her," said WWCC Head Coach Justin Speer. "Amanda has no doubt been an impact player for us. She really brings a lot things to help our program have success."
A three-time all-Sky-Em Conference player, Smith said she loves being part of the Warrior softball program.
"I love being on the Warrior softball team because the competition is at a different level than I have ever seen, and constantly forces me to push myself and become a better player," said Smith. "I love my role, and being able to pick my team up helps me keep myself up at the same time. Letting them know that their hard work does not go unnoticed inspires me to work harder. Being able to form a bond with these girls inspires me to better myself every day, on and off the field. "
Hudson, who was a three-sport athlete at SHS, has pitched 12 innings and has a 3.71 ERA. She is 1-1 with a pair of saves.
"She was put in tough situations against tough hitters and has had success in the situations," said Mendiola. "The more experience she gets, the better she will be."
It's taken Hudson a couple of seasons to get "experience." As a freshman, she batted once, but did not pitch. As a sophomore, she played in three games and had a base hit in two at-bats, but again did not pitch.
"The main difference for me this year would have to be me coming to terms with the role I play for the team," said Hudson, the daughter of Brett and Cara Hudson of Sisters. "I enjoy being a go-to pitcher in tough scenarios as well as a gap pitcher to break speed."
As for life after COI, Hudson says. "I'm not too sure what I will be wanting to do after COI. Continuing onto grad school is on the agenda, but so is having a break from school to work and find out what I really want to do."
But first, Hudson plans to finish the 2018 COI school year on a high note, then make the most of her final collegiate season in 2019.
"Though primarily a drop ball pitcher, I will spend this summer on my other spins because I think they are just as important," she said.
Hudson and Smith faced one another in a fall ball game. The two teams split a pair of 5-3 games during the twin bill.
Overall the biggest transition for Smith was figuring out how to be a student athlete in a college setting, and developing better habits to become successful in the classroom and on the field.
Smith said after WWCC she plans to transfer to a four-year school and continue playing softball. She said her teammates have played a major role in helping her "push through it."
"I have not decided on a specific major yet, but I have a few options in mind," said Smith, the daughter of Outlaw Head Softball Coach Dave Smith. "I'm truly keeping my options open and just living life as it comes my way."
Smith, like Hudson, plans on plenty of summer softball practice.
"I plan on going home, and filling my summer with work and training. My biggest goal is to truly develop in the off season and raise the bar for my sophomore year," said Smith. "I would like to become more consistent, both offensively and defensively. I want to focus on my pitches and work on my spins. As a hitter, I want to work on being able to square up more balls in my weak spots."
Smith and Hudson join a half-dozen former Outlaws as collegiate softball players. The others include NWAC All-Americans Dara Kosanke and Cassidy Edwards, Cassie Hernandez, Brooklyn Walker and Maddy Edwards.
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