QUITMAN — After having already written her name in the Quitman High School history books for girls athletics, senior Gracie Smith signed her national letter of intent to further her education and continue her softball career at National Park College in Hot Springs this past Friday morning before family and friends.
“I’m super blessed to have this opportunity,” exclaimed Smith, who also turned 18 on Friday. “I thank God every day for it.”
Smith has played an integral role in back-to-back Class 2A softball state championships for the Lady Bulldogs, serving as both a threat from centerfield and from the dish as a lefty. Smith began her varsity career with a trip to the 2017 State Elite Eight as a freshman, with Quitman finishing 20-4 overall. As a sophomore in 2018, the Lady Bulldogs bounced back and defeated Poyen 7-4 in the state championship for the program’s first title, going 23-5 in the process.
Last season as a junior in 2019, Smith batted .344 with 30 runs, 31 hits, 30 runs batted in, eleven walks, five stolen bases, eight doubles and one triple, tacking on a .909 fielding percentage after racking up 20 putouts on 22 chances, as Quitman bested their record with a 29-5 mark, taking down Poyen 3-2 once again in the state championship game for a second consecutive crown, bringing Smith’s career record to 72-14 with one full season left to play.
“Especially because we are such a small school, it’s not very often to play with so many girls that have the same love of the game as I do,” added Smith. “I’m very thankful for it.”
Smith, who was a member of the 2017 33-3 girls basketball state championship team as well, credited NPC for the small-school environment that reminded her of the one that Quitman has presented.
“Coach [Jessica] Taylor was great as soon as I met her. The atmosphere was small, and that was something I wanted coming from a small school myself.”
National Park College is located in Hot Springs and stands as the fourth largest community college in the state, serving approximately 7,500 students enrolled in college courses, workforce training, and adult education classes.
The Nighthawks softball program competes as a Division II program within the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 2. The Nighthawks are led by head coach Jessica Taylor. The 2019-2020 season will be the inaugural year for the Nighthawks.
“The first game I actually recruited was the state championship game between Quitman and Poyen last season,” said Taylor. “Obviously, multiple girls stood out to me but I was very interested in Gracie. I noticed that on every single play, no matter what she was doing she was giving full effort and going one-hundred percent, and I want that in my program. I contacted Coach [Stephanie] Davis and Coach [Marty] Rhodes and they had nothing but great things to say, and the rest is history from there. I’m so excited to have Gracie as a part of our program and am looking forward to seeing what she brings to the outfield and to our lineup.”
(Information courtesy of www.np.edu)