River Valley's Smith headed to East Carolina
River Valley's Courtney Smith isn't taking her talents to South Beach, but try about 800 miles north on I-95 to Greenville, N.C.
The senior pitcher has signed a four-year, full-ride scholarship with East Carolina University to play softball for the defending Conference-USA champions.
The Pirates had been scouting Smith as early as the eighth grade and the program's loyalty to her over the past four years was a major reason she decided to don the purple and yellow.
"It's a family atmosphere there," Smith said. "I wanted to go somewhere I was wanted and they really wanted me. I'm excited to be a part of this program."
Smith has been one of the Mid-Valley's most dominant performers over the past three years, striking out at least 150 batters per season since her freshman campaign in 2008.
Last year as a junior she lifted the Falcons to their first playoff win in any sport and went 15-4 with a 0.70 ERA in 119 innings pitched, including 198 strikeouts.
Where she garnered the most attention however was at the nationally-renowned Colorado Fireworks Tournament put on by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
During the exposure camps she basically showed schools across the country what depressed, opposing batters in the Tri-County Conference already knew — that Smith girl is pretty good.
But when schools like Oregon State and Northwestern came with the offers she decided to stay loyal to the school that wanted her before she even had her driver's permit.
"(East Carolina) is a great school with a beautiful campus," Smith said. "I also liked the fact that I'm going away from home to get the college experience."
During her official visit last month when the Pirates were playing football at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Smith was taken aback by how the town of Greenville rallied around the school.
Streets filled with Pirate flags, several teammates that also call California home and a softball program that is fresh off its first conference championship were all big selling points that eventually led Smith to sign on the dotted line.
"Everywhere you go (the community) supports the school," Smith said. "I will miss (home) a lot, but a lot of my teammates will be going through the same thing."
It won't be until the spring of 2012 that Smith takes the circle at ECU Softball Field, but for now the focus is on leading River Valley back to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
And that's something her mother Virginia is very content with.
"It's going to be difficult to think she will go that far," she said. "She will have a lot of guidance from the coaches and I know she will have a good family back there."