Empire junior Kelsey Smith is tearing the cover off the softball.
The slugging third baseman and No. 2 pitcher has provided the most power at the plate for the 12-1 Ravens with seven home runs, 30 RBIs and 12 doubles.
"She's been as successful against good pitching as she is against bad pitching," Empire coach Laura Espinoza-Watson said.
"That's pretty tough for a hitter to do."
Smith is batting .785 and has struck out just once this year. She is also 4-1 in the circle with 25 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA through 15 innings. Here's a look at four of her top performances so far in this young season:
March 20 vs. San Manuel
At the plate: Smith blasted two home runs over the left-field fence. Her first, in the first inning, came on a full-count pitch; her second came in the third inning. Smith knocked in four runs, scored four times, walked and drew an intentional walk.
On the field: Smith started the game at third base and played four innings before entering the circle for the final inning of play. The Ravens won 17-0.
Big highlight: After hitting a three-run home run in her first at-bat and then drawing a walk, Smith took the first pitch she saw in the third deep over the left-field fence.
Quotable: "That at-bat looked like batting practice. She wasn't even going to flinch if (the pitcher) gave her something bad." - Espinoza-Watson
Feb. 23 vs. Anthem Boulder Creek
At the plate: Smith went 3 for 3 with two home runs, a double, four RBIs, three runs scored and one walk.
On the field: Smith pitched two innings in relief, tallying three strikeouts and earning a save. The Ravens beat Boulder Creek 10-1 in the Dorado Classic.
Big highlight: Smith was stellar offensively but may have had a better impact in the circle. She had struggled in her previous outing, against powerhouse.
Quotable: "My bat was on fire. It hasn't gone down since then." -Smith
Feb. 22 vs. Queen Creek
At the plate: Smith finished the game 2 for 3 with a double, single, two RBIs and two runs in a doubleheader at the Dorado Classic.
On the field: She pitched the Ravens to a 8-1 victory. She threw four innings, struck out seven and surrendered one hit.
Big highlight: After walking the first batter, Smith retired three straight to set the tone for a strong outing.
Quotable: "Because she struggled with control, it was one of her breakout performances." - Espinoza-Watson
Feb. 22 vs. Cholla
At the plate: Smith belted two doubles and a single for four RBIs in three plate appearances as Empire beat the Chargers 6-2.
On the field: She notched her first win on the season, tossing five innings and fanning four batters.
Big highlight: Smith's ability to hit the ball squarely gave her confidence to come back and focus.
Quotable: "That was a good turning point, it was early in the season and she bounced back on the hill and totally put her offensive game behind her." - Espinoza-Watson