As a young girl, Lexi Smith witnessed Cat Osterman’s domination.
Now, she is reproducing it.
The Temple pitcher struck out more than 300 batters in her junior season, producing a 1.54 ERA en route to 16 victories and three perfect games on the mound. Her efforts helped the Tem-Cats return to the playoffs and earned her a second consecutive district MVP award.
Additionally, her standout season garnered her a position as the Killeen Daily Herald’s 2013 All-Area MVP.
While much of Smith’s success is due to raw talent and hard work, she credits her frequent trips to Austin, where she would watch her childhood idol and Texas softball legend Osterman pitch, as the motivation behind her current accomplishments.
“My dad was a Big 12 umpire, so I’d always go to games and watch,” Smith said. “It was just a fun experience. That’s how I got the love and passion for (softball). I’ve just liked it since I was 4 years old.”
When a 7-year-old Smith took a picture with Osterman, she thought it was the highlight of her life, but she has produced a number of equally memorable moments during her high school career. Perhaps none more fulfilling than when she broke Temple’s school record for strikeouts during a bi-district playoff game against Mansfield.
“I was excited,” Smith said of her 302 strikeouts. “I felt blessed that I was actually able to achieve that goal. (When I found out) I just looked up and said, ‘Thank you.’ I was really happy, pleased and excited.”
Despite rarely setting individual goals for herself, Smith was determined to reach 300 strikeouts — 54 more than she delivered during her sophomore campaign.
Although her trademark pitching performances defined her season, she proved to be equally talented at the plate.
Smith delivered a .376 batting average, going 32 for 85, with nine going for extra bases and recorded 24 RBIs. In district, she hit .389 with 15 RBIs as the Tem-Cats went 22-13-1 overall and finished third.
Offense has never truly concerned Smith, though.
“Hitting is something I never really focus on,” she said. “I’m really focused on pitching and staying focused during the game. … I love hitting, but pitching is even better.”
Still stinging from a first-round playoff loss, the only thing Smith wants to accomplish during her senior season is helping Temple go as far as possible in the playoffs, perhaps even exceeding the Tem-Cats’ run to the regional semifinals in 2012.
Outside of that, the Temple College commit intends to conclude her high school career by improving her skills and simply enjoying the game she fell in love as a child while watching Osterman pitch for the Longhorns.
“I couldn’t be any happier with all the (accomplishments) I’ve gotten and all the things I’ve done in the past three years,” Smith said. “I’m just going to try and go out there and be a better pitcher than I was the year before. That’s really all I’ve been doing these past years.”
Newcomer of the Year: Malory Schattle, Salado
The freshman did not take long to catch on, leading the Lady Eagles in hitting with a robust .495 average and also led the team in slugging, hitting four home runs and boasting an area-high .835 slugging percentage. She also drove in 41 runs for a Salado team that made the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Coach of the Year: Kory Craddick, Salado
The last time Salado made it to the second round of the 2A playoffs was in 2000, when the Lady Eagles defeated Moody 4-0 before falling to Lexington 7-1 in area. Salado, which last made the playoffs in 2009, has never advanced past the area round, having previously lost to Shiner in area in 1999. Craddick helped his team excel in his first year on the job for the Lady Eagles.
ALL-AREA SOFTBALL FIRST TEAM
- Pitcher: Sidney Holman, Fr., Belton – Holman lived up to her lofty expectations as a freshman, going 17-8 with a 2.59 earned run average and 177 strikeouts. In district, she was even better. Holman won 11 of 13 games, had a 0.40 ERA, struck out 105 and walked 30.
- Catcher: Blayne McGhee, So., Gatesville — A big reason the Hornets made the playoffs was the power of McGhee, who slugged an impressive .808 and hit eight home runs. She also excelled behind the plate, throwing out 14 base runners.
- First base: Alyson Bishoff, Jr., Belton – The junior power-hitter was at it again this season, belting five homers and driving in 38 runs for the Tigers. She also hit .385 overall and had a 1.121 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
- Second base: CeCe Cantu, So., Salado – A first-team 22-2A selection, Cantu hit .431 and drove in 33 runs and scored 31 times. Even more impressive was her defense. She only made three errors on the year and had a .977 fielding percentage.
- Third Base: Keagan Jimenez, Sr., Temple – The first-team 8-5A infielder hit .368 overall with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.
- Shortstop: Irene Espinoza, Jr., Copperas Cove – She helped lead the Lady Dawgs back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, hitting .388 with a 1.194 OPS. She hit two home runs and drove in 18 runs in the regular season.
- Left field: Shyenne Hicks, Jr., Salado – Playing all over the diamond never bothered Hicks, who hit .477 with four home runs and an area-high 50 RBIs. She had a .766 slugging percentage and batted .590 with runners in scoring position. She also went 13-3 on the mound with a 3.08 ERA.
- Center field: Ashley Cook, Sr., Gatesville – The senior hit a whopping .532 on the year, stole 36 bases and scored 44 runs. She was named the offensive MVP of District 8-3A.
- Right field: Morgan Hill, Jr., Salado – While the first-team 22-2A selection did most of her damage on the mound, going 12-3 with a 2.52 ERA for the Lady Eagles, she also was an ace with the bat, hitting .462 with two home runs and 24 RBIs.
- Designated hitter: Bekah Alcozer, So., Belton – A first-team 8-5A selection, she hit eight home runs and had 29 RBIs. She also slugged an impressive .797.
- Pitcher — Ashley Hartwell, Sr., Copperas Cove
- C — Reagan McIlvenna, Jr., Harker Heights
- 1B — Andelyn Irons, Sr., Temple
- 2B — Kirsten Whiteside, Sr., Belton
- 3B — Alex Wilson, Sr., Belton
- SS — Taylor Valentin, Sr., Temple
- LF — Skylar Stewart, So., Belton
- CF — Megan Chambers, Sr., Gatesville
- RF — Taylor Ward, Sr., Temple
- DH — Jenna Franz, Sr., Salado