Lacy Smith has been hot at the plate in her final season with Virginia softball. The senior first baseman leads the team with a career-best .423 batting average and 13 home runs, tied with Virginia’s all-time record for home runs in a single season. As she prepares to close out her softball career at Virginia, Smith is determined to leave everything on the field.
A native of Lancaster, Pa., Smith decided in middle school that she wanted to compete at the Division 1 level. In 10th grade, she remembers writing down a list of schools, deciding which coaches to contact and what camps to attend in order to get recruited. Smith admits that Virginia wasn’t on her radar at all until she saw the school on one of her teammate’s lists. From there, she made the decision to attend softball camps at Virginia, working on her skills and showcasing her talent.
Like many athletes that choose Virginia, Smith could tell right off the bat that the school was the perfect blend of athletics and academics. She quickly fell in love with Charlottesville and Grounds and committed in September of her junior year.
In her first season with Virginia, Smith served as the team’s number two pitcher, taking on tremendous responsibility as a freshman. Smith started 19 games with 25 appearances in the circle, racking up 45 strikeouts for the season. She and freshman pitcher Erika Osherow carried the team through the season, alternating on the mound.
“I think first year really set me up well to be a good leader,” Smith said.
But while she served an integral role as one of the team’s go-to pitchers, Smith wasn’t given many opportunities to prove her strength on offense. Smith had a total of just 47 at-bats her freshman season, finishing with a .213 batting average and scoring just four runs.
In 2017, when Joanna Hardin took on the role of head coach for Virginia, Smith was still on the mound for much of the season but was also positioned in right field. In the circle, she struck out 34 batters in 49.2 innings pitched and had 18 relief appearances, tying for the fifth most in the ACC. A big change, however, was in plate appearances, which almost doubled her previous season’s total. She had eight home runs for the season and a .301 on-base percentage. She was finally getting the opportunity to improve her skills on offense and was beginning to prove what she could do at the plate.
When her junior year rolled around, Smith pitched a career-high 118.2 innings and led the team with six complete games. She also had a total of 164 at-bats and 10 multi-hit games. She split time between pitching and third-base, yet another difficult position to learn to play.
“I think last year ... was the first time I really saw time in the infield at third and [I was] kind of unsure of myself,” Smith said. “Here in college, I think the biggest transition is you need to be so vocal and communicate well with the outfield.”
Looking at her stats for the 2019 season, it is impressive to see how far Smith has come as a hitter. While the ability has certainly always been there, Smith has proven this season just how good she is at the plate. Number two in the lineup, Smith has been the driving force behind run production alongside other key hitters — sophomore infielder Hayley Busby, senior catcher Olivia Gott and senior pitcher Erika Osherow. She recently concluded a 16-game hitting streak and was named ACC Player of the Week March 12.
Smith’s hitting mechanics have always been strong, but her recent success is due to her gaining confidence to perform day in and day out.
“I don’t know if she’s made many changes to her swing as much as she is executing a quality swing more consistently,” Hardin said. “She doesn’t give away swings or at bats, a sign of maturity and confidence in her abilities.”
Osherow described her relationship to Smith as special, noting that the two have been through the ups and downs of the past four years together.
“Looking back over the years, I can always picture Lacy and I from day one as first-years just going through it together and kind of pushing each other,” Osherow said. “It’s kind of this special dynamic because we’re competitive with each other but also just want the best for each other and so I’m really happy that she’s having such an awesome senior year.”
While Osherow and Smith aren’t splitting time on the mound as much in their final season together, both have been producing at the plate and in the field, bringing in runs and leading by example.
Smith’s ability to focus on offense rather than pitching in her senior year has been crucial to her development at the plate.
“For Lacy, pitching was a huge responsibility that [inevitably] took attention from hitting, be that mental or physical,” Hardin said. “I think eliminating pitching from the equation has freed her up to give more attention to fine tuning her offense. She has always been diligent about investing time into all aspects of her game, but now she has more time to devote to offense.”
The transition from pitching to first base has given Smith more time to focus on improving her swing and gain confidence at the plate.
“I think there’s so many good pitchers out there who are good hitters, and I’m glad we’re seeing that in softball nowadays,” Smith said. “It just takes a lot of focus to be able to separate when you’re pitching and when you’re hitting.”
An Economics and Media Studies double major, Smith wants to stay in the sports field after she graduates.
“Right now I think I see my path taking me somewhere in sports marketing or advertising, probably in a big city,” Smith said.
She is currently the vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a role that has gotten her out of her comfort zone and allowed her to lead and communicate with other athletes.
Outside of softball and her other academic and extracurricular pursuits, Smith maintains a full social life.
“You just have to take advantage of your free time and be willing to meet people instead of getting stuck in the athlete bubble,” Smith said.
Going into the last weeks of the regular season, Smith is optimistic.
“We’ve had a really good start.” Smith said. “This is the first year we have a lot of control over our destiny. Here we’re at the point where we really have control to get a good spot in the ACC and so I’m really excited for that.”
The ACC Tournament takes place at Florida State, where her entire family went to school, and she hopes the team can finally make it there this year.
Beyond this goal, Smith is enjoying the ride in her last year playing in a Virginia softball uniform.
“I think just staying within myself and just continuing to have fun, and if the stats come and if hits come, that’ll be great, but [I’m] not thinking too much about those things,” Smith said. “I think the beginning of my college career was just trying to prove to a lot of people that I belonged here and that I needed to prove something and this year my mentality was to kind of have fun and enjoy [my] last year playing the sport.”