Louisville softball transfer Jasmine Smithson-Willett embraces new role at Oregon

Oregon right-handed pitcher Jasmine Smithson-Willett (16) winds up her arm prior to pitching the ball. The No. 1 Oregon Ducks play the Utah Valley Wolverines at Howe Field in Eugene, Oregon on April 29, 2014. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

Oregon right-handed pitcher Jasmine Smithson-Willett (16) winds up her arm prior to pitching the ball. The No. 1 Oregon Ducks play the Utah Valley Wolverines at Howe Field in Eugene, Oregon on April 29, 2014. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

Posted by Hayden Kim on Thursday, May. 1 at 1:00 pm.

For Jasmine Smithson-Willett, transferring to Oregon was all about rediscovering her love for the mound and being a part of something special. Since this move, the sophomore pitcher has discovered just that. Smithson-Willett has not only become an integral part of Oregon’s dynamic pitching rotation, but she has also found herself playing for the No. 1 ranked program that has a great shot at winning the WCWS title.

“It’s like that feeling again, that championship feeling,” Smithson-Willett said. “You want to be on the best team with the best players because that’s only going to get you better. You can’t mess up because the girl behind you isn’t going to, so everybody is tiptoeing on each other’s toes and it’s a good uneasy feeling.”

The decision to transfer from Louisville to Oregon was simple for Smithson-Willett. After suffering a stress fracture her freshman year, Smithson-Willett wasn’t satisfied with her results. Naturally, when she heard of an opportunity to play for Oregon as a pitcher — a position she’s always wanted to play at the college level — Smithson-Willett made the move.

“I didn’t even get a chance to suck (at Louisville),” Smithson-Willett said. “So, I really wanted to make an impression this year. It’s all about chances and when I was looking at schools, I asked who would give me a chance. Coach White really took me under his wing and I appreciate that.”

Since arriving to Oregon, Smithson-Willett has smoothly transitioned back into her role as a pitcher and gained the respect of her teammates in the process. Smithson-Willett, the hardest-throwing pitcher for the Ducks, adds another dimension that every team wishes it had.

“We all have different strengths and I think her (Smithson-Willett) throwing hard really offsets me and Cheridan,” fellow starter Karissa Hovinga said. “We all have our own strengths and I think it’s going to work out for us.”

Similar to last year’s pitching trio of Jessica Moore, Cheridan Hawkins and Karissa Hovinga, all three pitchers this year have complimented each other with their different styles of play. All three bring something different to the table and they also push each other to be the best.

“I wouldn’t want to be a hitter,” Smithson-Willett said.

As the Ducks push forward towards the postseason, Smithson-Willett will do what she can to help the team win a title. Smithson-Willett expects to serve as Oregon’s relief pitcher and this depth could be the difference for the Ducks.

“I think she (Smithson-Willett) has made steady progress the whole season,” head coach Mike White said. “When she first came in the fall, it was a question whether she’d be a pitcher for us. Now, she’s a definite possibility for us and I think if we can get her to control that changeup, she’s definitely going to have a role.”

The fact that Smithson-Willett was never even pitched for the Cardinals is a small miracle for Oregon.

“It is kind of surprising to see that,” Hawkins said. “I feel like her personality on the mound is so strong and tenacious that I definitely think she might have been a little overlooked. She works really hard and deserves every opportunity she gets here.”

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