Coming full circle


Teammates cheer Kaylea Smith. Photo by John Kean

Kaylea Smith wasn’t used to sitting on the bench when she joined the Lady Miners softball team as a freshman. The Blue Springs, Mo., native had been a starter growing up, but at S&T she was behind a senior on the depth chart at the catcher’s position. Early in that 2010 season, she struggled with that role, both mentally and physically.


Kaylea Smith was named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-District First Team for Region Four last spring. Photo by John Kean

“When you play a whole game it’s easier to stay up and involved,” Smith says. “If you don’t get on base in one at bat, well, you have another. As a pinch hitter this isn’t the case. You may not get another at bat for a couple of games. And not only that, but when coach says, ‘Kackes (her nickname), grab a bat,’ you know a hit is needed and the pressure is on. Before college I hadn’t been put in too many situations like this.

“One of my favorite terms is ‘inexpensive experience’ — learning from someone else so you don’t have to learn it on your own,” she says. “I caught the true meaning of this when I finally started listening to an upperclassman, Kassi Deibert (a 2011 business and management systems graduate). She had been in my shoes plenty of times and had lots of good advice. With her help and coach’s confidence in me, I overcame adversity and succeeded in the role.”


Kaylea Smith’s home run last season at Lincoln University of Missouri in Jefferson City. Photo by Luke Rinne

In her limited role during the 2010 season, Smith became the top bat off the bench for head coach Don Kennedy. She played in 41 games and hit .381, getting 24 hits in 63 at-bats with three home runs and seven runs batted in. When she was called upon to pinch hit, she hit .400 with a big home run in a game against Drury on April 18. The Lady Miners trailed the Lady Panthers 1-0 with one out in the bottom of the fifth and needed a spark.

When Coach Kennedy called on her, she delivered by blasting a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left-center to tie the game. S&T would go on to win that game 2-1 in eight innings and won the nightcap 10-9 to complete the sweep.


Starting catcher Kaylea Smith is beginning her last season with the Lady Miners. Photo by John Kean

Now a senior majoring in architectural engineering, Smith has been the starting catcher the last two seasons and is also team captain. She still incorporates the lessons she learned as a freshman into her everyday life.

“Not everything in life is cut and dried,” she says. “When pinch-hitting, I had to look at situations and decide if I would be needed or not instead of just sulking on the bench about not playing. In life, you always have to be thinking about what may arise and what you would need to do in these situations. And like pinch-hitting, sometimes a situation is completely unexpected and you have to take a deep breath, put everything aside and hit the ball out of the park.”

Smith looks forward to winning a lot of games in her final season donning the silver and gold and to passing along her knowledge to this year’s freshman class.
“They’ve been a pleasure to work with this fall,” she says. “I’m really excited to show off what they bring to the team. I think we have a solid team this year and I can’t wait to start playing.

“I’m also excited to be going to Florida to play early in the season instead of playing in the cold temperatures we’ve played in down in Arkansas the last two years,” she adds.

By Luke Rinne
Missouri S&T Lady Miners’s 2013 softball schedule.
More about Missouri S&T sports.


  1. Very nicely done Kackes! We are all so proud of you, and we know that your last year is going to be a strong one. I love you princess and keep up the great work! Pops.