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Memorable year of college ball for ‘Smitty’
DES MOINES, Iowa — It was the last inning of the Midwest Collegiate Conference championships. The Grand View Vikings were up after trailing Iowa Wesleyan College by three runs earlier in the game.
Wesleyan was up to bat with two outs.
With the crack of the bat, a ground ball was hit between second and third base. Zac Smit, 2011 graduate of North Kitsap High School, was there to make the stop and throw out the batter to end the game, take the title and head to the opening of the world championships.
It was one of the more memorable experiences of Smit’s first year on a collegiate baseball team.
“It was one of the coolest feelings,” he said inside a Poulsbo Starbucks Wednesday afternoon. The play happened quickly and after it was all over, the traditional dog pile followed.
Smit returned from Grand View about one month ago, where he played starting shortstop for the majority of the season. The freshman had the opportunity to play the starting position after a solid performance during a four-game series. He went 7-13 in the games on offense and drove in three runs, according to Grand View’s website. Smit took over for the senior shortstop, who was out for two weeks with a shoulder injury.
The Grand View Vikings finished the season 27-29 overall (8-6 home, 11-16 away, 8-7 neutral, 16-8 conference). They had a rough start, but when it came time to play in the conference, the team became more cohesive, Smit said.
There were a lot of “good gloves” on the team as well. Including infielder Brady Wathen, who earned the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
Smit said the transition from the regular season to conference games was like day and night. Conference games do not allow for error. The teams — eight in the midwest conference — were tough.
“You have to start hot,” Smit said. “If you flop over, you’re done.”
The Grand View Vikings went on to lose both games in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series opening round. They lost 5-3 to Peru State and 4-2 to Bellevue University.
Smit is one of two Grand View players from Washington; the other is Malka’l Derouin of Auburn. And if the switch from the regular season to conference play was noticeable, the switch from high school to college ball was huge.
Smit said many of the players on the team have a self-centered attitude. They are not cocky, but they care a lot about individual performance. If you make an error, you have to be able to pick yourself up, he said.
On the field, Smit said baseball is flying fast. Outfielders are throwing harder. Pitching, which Smit said was one of the backbones of the team all season, is one of the biggest differences between high school and college ball.
“For me, it was tough,” he said. “[The pitchers] were hitting different spots. Definitely a big transition there.”
Smit began playing T-ball when he was 5. After sticking with ball throughout elementary and middle school, he joined the C-team at NK his freshman year. He joined the NK team as one of the smaller players, but his dedication during the off-season helped him become one of the more prominent players, North Kitsap coach Jeff Weible said in 2011.
He went from a catcher in Little League to shortstop, where he hopes to stay.
At one point during the season, an announcer referred to Smit as the “Pride of Poulsbo.” He thought it was funny, but so far the nickname hasn’t caught on. He’s mostly Zac or “Smitty.”