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Offseason Work, Renewed Focus Helping Jack Smith Lead in 2022

May 5, 2022

By Nick Oldham (Washington State Athletics)

Washington State baseball senior infielder Jack Smith has come a long way since his freshman year in 2017-18. His hard work and consistent improvement year after year has brightened his future in baseball, but also made him a respected leader on and off the field.

Smith, 22, currently leads the Cougars this season in almost every offensive statistical category, hitting .342 with 52 hits, 12 doubles, 27 RBIs, and 28 runs. Smith is on pace to record career highs in each of those categories.

"I started to really focus on just having fun," Smith said. "I've just been trying to forget about all the nonsense, all the numbers and statistics, and just go up and there and hit the ball as hard as I can. I just want to look back and have no regrets."

Smith said the biggest improvement he's noticed was some minor adjustments he made in his swing. He said head coach Brian Green, along with assistant coaches Brycen Campbell and David Bellamy, helped him a lot during the fall in order to take his offensive game to the next level.

Another factor that played a role in his big step up this season was the time he spent in Pullman over the summer. Unlike a lot of his teammates who played in summer leagues, Smith decided to stay on The Palouse and work on getting stronger and healthier. What he didn't expect was making strong connections at WSU's youth camps and with the incoming freshman.

"It was not only great staying here over the summer to get stronger and workout, but also being able to have fun with it too," Smith said. "Working camps with the kids, being with the coaches and freshman every day, that helped with my mindset more than anything."

One of the incoming freshman Smith mentored over the summer was fellow infielder Elijah Hainline, who has started alongside Smith in 34 of the Cougars 42 games. He said Smith has always been there to help him get through adversity and serve as a team leader on and off the field.

"[Over the summer] he was able to teach us everything about Pullman," Hainline said. "What it's like being a Coug, what's it's like being on this team and it's culture, and how to represent Washington State the best we can."

Smith, who attended Mercer Island High School, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 39th round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft. Smith decided to decline and head to Pullman instead. 

Despite much of his future looming over the next several months, Smith said he tries best to avoid thinking about it and take everything one day at a time.

"I've learned from my experience in high school; it was a lot more pressure then because I was young and didn't know how to handle it," Smith said. "So, I've kind of learned that you can't worry about the draft or the pressure, you just got to play it day-to-day and worry about the present moment."

Smith said the team morale is at an all-time high, as the Cougars are coming fresh off series wins against Southern California, No. 10 Oregon, No. 9 Arizona, and a mid-week win against No. 11 Gonzaga. The team hopes to carry that momentum into the final month of the season for a possible Pac-12 tournament berth.

"The tough thing about our last couple series wins is we've lost Friday nights in heartbreaking losses," Smith said. "I'm really proud of our guys for coming back and winning those Saturdays and Sundays, which is not easy to do after losing a Friday night game."

The Cougars are still in the hunt to be one of the top-8 teams to make the Pac-12 tournament, which goes from May 25-29 in Scottsdale, Ariz. WSU is just 1.5 games back from eight seed Arizona State, who the Cougars will play at home in their last three games of the regular season from May 19-21.

"It's helped us focus in a little more because now we have something to play for," Smith said. "I think the tournament is a great option for teams like us, who might have struggled a bit at the beginning of the year. I know we're on the bubble, but we still have a heartbeat and a chance, and we've given ourselves that chance by beating some really good teams."

For more information on Smith and the rest of the WSU baseball team, follow @WSUCougarBSB on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.