The Lufkin Panthers softball team is just 4 wins away from going undefeated in a district they were picked to finish in fourth place.
The team is not only winning, they are winning with a dominating pitching performance. In district play, they have given up just two runs. All of the production on the mound has come from Smiley Radke.
"I would put Smiley up against any other pitcher in the state of Texas and I would choose her every single time," Head Coach Shelby Elkins said. "She has this intensity about her that is unmatched."
In district action, Radke has 74 strikeouts. On the year that number goes up to 225 for an average of 11 strikeouts a game. Her most dominating performance came in back-to-back games against Oak Ridge and The Woodlands where she threw 31 strikeouts. Both of those teams were supposed to be the top teams of the district. Her ERA for the season sits at 1.94. In district play on 8 batters have been able to reach base on hits off of Radke.
"I just go out and I just think I can do it no matter what and all this practice is going to pay off," Radke said.
Radke's love for softball started at a young age and by the age of six she was throwing and preparing for fast pitch softball. Now the Lufkin junior throws in the mid 60s.
"The first inning is usually nerve racking but I just go out there and do my thing," Radke said.
One thing that might help her is her size and not being taken seriously.
"If you look at her you will not see a huge shutout kid," Elkins said. "She is 5'3''. Most dominating pitchers are going to be about 5'8''- 5'9''. "She comes out there with extreme intensity and is a strikeout pitcher."
Radke's strong pitching performance is backed up by the near flawless play of her teammates.
"My teammates are the best," Radke said. "Yeah I might have strikeouts but I need defense behind me. Like in The Woodlands game when Requena made that awesome catch. It is just great to see the work they do."
Elkins is confident every time she puts the ball into Radke's hands. Every game she tells the team the same message.
"We are undefeated in district," Elkins said. "We have a target on her back. You can strike everyone out but we have a phenomenal defense behind her and they sacrifice a lot for each other."
There is little room for error. The team will play Conroe on Friday night at Morris Frank Park before a trip to Montgomery and then senior night at home against Oak Ridge, a team they beat 1-0 on the road. The Lady Pack will close the year out in the Woodlands which could be for the district championship. Radke will be the go to pitcher.
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