Kelsey Smith was dominant on both sides of the ball and was a big reason in why Empire made it to the Division III state semifinals for the first time.

To make it even better for the Ravens, she’s one of many players who are expected to be back next season.

Smith led the state in RBIs with 75 and was tied for second in home runs with 15. She also went 11-3 in the circle, striking out 89 batters in 56.2 innings with a 1.73 ERA.

She had 21 multi-RBI games and may have had her best performance against San Manuel, the eventual Division IV state champion, when she homered twice and drove in five runs.

Smith also proved she could be clutch down the stretch by having at least one RBI in her final 15 games. She hit a walk-off three-run double in the state quarterfinals and scored Empire’s lone run on a solo home run in the state semifinal loss against Goodyear Estrella Foothills, the eventual champion.

There were several strong candidates for player of the year including Empire sophomore pitcher Brittany Woolridge who went 16-2 with a 0.63 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 100 innings pitches but Smith was the most deserving.

Ironwood Ridge pitcher Emily Robinson was also considered because of how key she was in the Nighthawks’ run to the Division II state championship as was senior Alexis Clinton who batted .487 and had 39 RBIs.

Some other candidates included Canyon del Oro junior Makenzie Sullivan who hit 10 home runs and drove in 47 runs, Sunnyside senior Alexandria Reyes who went 15-2 in the circle with a .417 batting average and Sabino junior Kelsey Jenkins who batted .629.