The Gopher Softball team knew they were going to need to find some additional pitching help next season to try and get back to the NCAA Tournament after losing legend Sara Groenewegen to graduation. Minnesota appears to have found that help in the form of LSU transfer Sydney Smith.
Smith is from Maple Grove and was a two-time Minnesota Gatorade Softball Player of the Year and Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Award Winner. The 2015 graduate of Maple Grove High School finished her career with a 54-1 record as a pitcher and helped the Crimson win four consecutive conference and section championships and make the championship game of the state tournament in 2012 and 2014
She appeared in 23 games in her first season at LSU and made 17 starts for the Tigers leading the team in ERA at 1.16, shutouts with seven, and walks allowed (24). She finished the season with a 13-4 record throwing 96.1 innings and striking out 76 batters. She was named one of 25 finalists for the NCAA Freshman of the Year Award.
Her sophomore season was not quite as impressive as she went 12-7 in 22 games for the Tigers finishing with a 2.08 ERA. She struck out just 53 batters in 107.2 innings of work. Smith was the third member of a three headed pitching staff, and decided she needed a new start elsewhere.
Smith can still help the Gophers and should immediately compete with Carlie Brandt and Amber Fiser for the top spot in the Gopher rotation. While Smith “struggled” more in the SEC this season, she can still bring it as shown by shutouts over an Alabama team that ended Minnesota’s season last spring, and a Georgia team that led the SEC in hitting.
With this transfer it appears the Gophers have reloaded at a spot of need. They return seven starters from last year’s Big Ten Championship squad and appear primed to make yet another run next spring.