BOSTON – A voice boomed over the Fenway Park public address system.
Please welcome …
It continued, rattling off a laundry list of accomplishments Milford High softball senior pitcher Shannon Smith has accrued in her four-year career with the Scarlet Hawks. The reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball Award winner, the fulcrum to Milford’s MIAA Division 1 state championship last year, has already done more than just about any pitcher in recent memory has – and she still has one more postseason run upcoming.
… the most dominant softball player in Massachusetts …
As of Thursday, Smith sat one win away from 80 career victories – a staggering number considering Massachusetts teams play about 20 regular-season games a season. Of those 79 wins, 26 of those games have come in no-hit complete games. She also has eight perfect games to her credit. The University of Kentucky signee recently joined an elite club of pitchers to notch 1,000 career strikeouts. Her latest title is that of the state’s all-time leader in strikeouts in a career, breaking the record established by Shawsheen Tech’s Jennifer Elwell in 2004. Smith eclipsed Elwell’s 1,119 strikeouts during a 2-0 win over Marlborough on Wednesday. She finished the game with 1,128.
Her long-stated goal is to reach 1,200 strikeouts.
… from Milford High School, Shannon Smith.
About 24 hours after Smith claimed her latest record, she stood on the mound at Fenway. When she was introduced to the crowd, she gave a sheepish wave back.
Then she reared back and, from the full 60-feet, 6-inches away, threw a strike (over-handed nonetheless), on a line. A poor Red Sox staff member charged with catching the ceremonial first pitch was on the receiving end of the laser in what was likely to be one of the strongest efforts you’ll see in such a situation.
“She couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “She said, ‘You are really good, huh?’”
When Smith walked off the field back toward the first-base line where Milford head coach Brian Macchi and her family was watching, she stopped for a beat. The moment finally caught up to her. She took a deep breath with a glint of a tear in the corner of her eye. She gave a hug to her sister, Andrea. Now a senior at Framingham State, Andrea Smith once shared the circle with her younger sibling, forming a nearly unbeatable 1-2 combination during Shannon’s freshman season.
After regaining composure, Shannon and her entourage of family, friends and coaches walked back to their grandstand seats. Meandering through the crowd, Shannon was met with a couple of high-fives and well wishes from fans. She wore a home white Red Sox jersey, which the team presented to her before throwing out the first pitch. It came customized with her nameplate stitched on the back along with her No. 3.
Her coach beamed like a proud papa.
“The progression she’s made from her first game until now is significant,” Macchi said. “She has grown a lot. I know that she’s going to put the effort in down there [at Kentucky], just like she did here, and she’s going to be successful.”
Shannon Smith’s freshman season might be the greatest indicator of her character.
Andrea Smith was a wildly successful pitcher in her own right, compiling a 55-8 career record with the Scarlet Hawks before graduating in 2010. She committed to C.W. Post to play softball and spent a year there before transferring to Framingham State. During her senior season, Andrea split time with her younger sister during the regular season in the circle, with Shannon having a slight advantage in appearances (11-9). Shannon Smith went on to win her first of two Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year Awards that season, leading the Scarlet Hawks on a deep postseason run.
Through it all, the sisters handled what could have been a sticky situation with grace. Never the one to make a spectacle of herself, Shannon always had Andrea in mind.
“Her whole freshman year, when I told her she was going to pitch, it caught her off guard,” Macchi said. “She wanted her sister to be out there pitching; it’s just the type of kid she is and the kind of relationship they had.”
“[Andrea] never said one thing and she was supporting her sister one-hundred percent.”
Shannon Smith is on track for another Player of the Year Award this year, sporting an ERA of 0.06 through 20 games and having allowed only one earned run in 124 innings thrown. In the coming weeks, she and her teammates will look to defend their Division 1 state title in the tournament. A repeat title performance is about all that is left for Smith to accomplish before shipping off to Lexington.
But for as dominant a force as she’s been for so long, Smith still admits to getting nervous before taking the mound, so forgive her if she felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach before climbing the hill at Fenway.
“I was a little nervous,” Smith said. “I usually do get nervous.”
She chuckled, “I didn’t want to be one of those people who rolls it all the way to home plate.”
No surprise, Smith thoroughly weighed her options leading up to her Fenway debut. She debated going with her typical under-handed windmill delivery, instead settling on the traditional baseball-style wind-up. Seemingly, like everything the National Honor Society student does, it went swimmingly.
“I was a little worried about the size of the baseball, and the mound, I didn’t know if the hill would mess me up at all,” she said. “I wanted to go the safe route, go with what I know.”
It was a strike.