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Freshman infielder was drafted by Mariners out of high school, decided to attend WSU to hone skills

Freshman+infielder+Jack+Smith+has+started+14+games+this+season+and+has+a+.250+batting+average+in+56+at+bats.+
Freshman infielder Jack Smith has started 14 games this season and has a .250 batting average in 56 at bats.

Freshman infielder Jack Smith has started 14 games this season and has a .250 batting average in 56 at bats.

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

Freshman infielder Jack Smith has started 14 games this season and has a .250 batting average in 56 at bats.

RYAN BLAKE, Evergreen reporter

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Defense wins championships – or so the adage goes. Defensive prowess is not something innate or stumbled upon, but something worked on tirelessly every day.

Jack Smith shows up early and stays late for every practice, taking groundballs in the infield and hitting in the cages. His work ethic comes from a drive to get better every day and be able to compete at the level demanded by the Pac-12 Conference, he said.

“He’s played very, very good defense,” said WSU head coach Marty Lees. “He’s made every play and more.”

As a freshman, Smith has served primarily as a second baseman in a rotation of Cougar infielders, a position he began playing over the winter. However, Lees said he is not limited to second base.

Smith played shortstop in high school and has experience at third base, with the possibility of moving over to first if needed. He has the potential to be a super utility player, Lees said.

Smith attended Mercer Island High School where he stood out on the baseball field. He was named to the All-State team by the Washington State Coaches Association and led his team to a third place finish in the state tournament his senior year.

Smith’s high school performance earned him admiration from MLB scouts. He was selected in 39th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by his favorite team the Seattle Mariners.

Ultimately, Smith decided to forgo the opportunity to play minor league baseball and hone his skills at WSU.

“I think we have the best program out there and I really believe that,” Smith said. “I want this program to be great like it has been in the past and I know it can be. I think we’re getting the pieces there as we continue down this journey and I think we’ll get there.”

After being thrust into a starting role, despite his collegiate inexperience, his confidence and hard work caught the eye of the coaching staff.

He has started 14 of the 19 games the Cougars have played this season and figures to see even more playing time as the season progresses. Smith said adjusting to the level of play in the Pac-12 has been one of the biggest challenges he has faced.

The six-foot-three-inch middle infielder is currently hitting .250 with one double in 56 at bats.

“I felt like I was facing good competition but once you get to college baseball . . . it’s a whole different animal,” Smith said.

Smith is still working on adjusting to the new level offensively. Lees said there is a difference between how high school pitchers and college pitchers approach a batter, something that takes young hitters time to adjust to.

Smith’s defensive ability will keep him on the field while he continues to develop offensively. He said the confidence the coaches have shown in him has helped him grow as a player.

“Coach Lees, I think, is the best infield coach in the nation and he’s gotten me ten times better than what I was when I got here,” Smith said.

With WSU holding a 5-19 record, Smith said he wants the team to compete and have fun doing it in order to turn their season around.

“Whether it’s leadership or whether it’s plays in the field, I just want the team to win,” Smith said. “That will always be the biggest thing for me as long as I am a Cougar.”

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