Having signed with Bucknell earlier this year, Zoie Smith knows she has a future in softball.
But Smith, a senior catcher at Pickerington Central, was most disappointed about this season being canceled for reasons not related to her own legacy with the Tigers.
Because of their similar approaches to the game, Smith was looking forward to playing under new coach Stephanie Peterson this spring.
"One of the reasons I was so upset is because I never got to play under her. She's intense and wants us to be the best we can be," Smith said of Peterson, the team's third coach in four years. "This is something new, but it's something new that we all want. It was easy for all of us to rally under coach Peterson."
Spring sports were canceled April 20 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Smith finished her Tigers career with a .526 batting average and 29 home runs and was named first-team all-state each of the past two years. Central was 59-17 in Smith's tenure, winning at least 17 games every season and finishing as a Division I district runner-up in both 2017 and 2018.
Last season, the Tigers went 17-7 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division and advanced to a district semifinal.
Peterson, a 2007 graduate of DeSales who played at Toledo and Capital and later served as an assistant coach at her alma mater as well as Angelo State University in Texas, said Smith's skills are comparable to college players she has seen or coached.
"I've been around the game for a while and she is just an all-around leader, not just in her skills -- obviously, her skills are above par -- but her leadership on and off the field is the best I've ever seen," Peterson said. "She and I had a conversation early on because I remember watching her the past couple years. I went to her first because I knew what she had. She bought in quickly. She was willing to take whatever direction I wanted the program to go and apply it to everything she did. The girls saw that and said, 'If Zoie's doing it, we're doing it.' "
Smith has started since her freshman season. She hit a team-high 11 home runs as a sophomore, including two grand slams, and last year led Central in batting average (.547), home runs (13), hits (47) and RBI (46).
"She has been the consistent factor in this program for four years," Peterson said. "I kind of ran things through her. I might never find somebody like that again. You can tell by the way she carries herself on the field that her presence demands respect. (And) her arm, she has a cannon. She knows the game so well that she isn't hesitant. She plays with confidence."
Originally an Indiana commit, Smith switched to Bucknell last fall.
"I'm working even harder now because I'm competing for a spot on my college team," Smith said. "I just wanted to achieve more (at Central). There were some individual awards I wanted to strive for this year, but overall, Pickerington Central softball has gone through a lot of stuff and we've always managed to have 15- or 20-win seasons. Looking back over my career, it's not about what I've done personally, but it's about what the team and I have done coming together."