As a mid-major school, UMBC is expected to draw mid-tier talent for their athletic programs. It is not often that a school of UMBC’s size is able to recruit one of the best talents in the nation. But, when it comes to the Retrievers’ softball team, it is possible that they may have one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in the nation.
As unbelievable as it may sound, a first-year student could very well be number one in the nation by looking at the statistics. The pitcher in question would be freshman-pitcher Courtney Coppersmith. As of Sunday, Coppersmith owned a 1.82 ERA in 50 innings pitched. During that time, she struck out 82 batters, earning 11.48 strikeouts per seven innings NCAA official stats were last updated on March 8, and had Coppersmith leading the nation in that category.
The impressive start by Coppersmith mirrors that of softball legend Jennie Finch. Coppersmith is a much better strikeout pitcher than Finch was her freshman year, as Finch struck out less than one batter per game. Currently, Coppersmith also has a lower ERA than Finch, who posted a 2.08 ERA in her freshman year. Coppersmith, who hails from York, PA graduated from Central York High School in the spring. She got her start in the sport by playing baseball with her twin brother, Bobby and eventually moved on to playing softball at the age of nine
On the field, Coppersmith was also extremely dominant in high school. She lead her team to qualifying for states for the first time in 12 years. She also pitched a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts during her senior season. She also wound up surpassing the 500 strikeout mark in her final year at York, which was a big milestone for her.
Her brother Bobby goes to York College, but he did not get the same athletic prowess as Courtney. “I’m the only athletic one in my family,” said Coppersmith. “Everyone in my family will admit that.” Coppersmith says that her siblings are “as far apart as you can get” as far as their ambitions. Her sister, Ciara is a senior art-history major at Moore College in Philadelphia. “She’s crazy good,” raved Coppersmith. “I can only draw stick figures.” Her brother is also involved in the arts, but “on the technical side” of theater.
However, Coppersmith is more geared towards the science side of academics, as she is majoring in biochemistry/microbiology. She has ambitions of eventually becoming a pharmacist or doing research in a hospital.
She is very involved on campus. “A lot of people call me crazy,” she recounted as she tried to remember the names of all of the clubs she is involved in. Currently she is a Merit Scholar, an Undergraduate Admission Ambassador, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committe, the Star Program, Pre-Pharmacy Society, Take Home UMBC program and the Retriever Project.
With all of her commitments, Coppersmith admits that it is hard to balance everything. Many of the clubs meet at the same times, but she is very grateful that they work with her to allow her to balance all of those commitments, and softball practices/games.
Other schools did make offers to Coppersmith. She visited multiple campuses, but eventually, she fell in love with UMBC. “It’s kind of like how most women are like when they find their wedding dress, they just know,” she recalled. “There’s just like, that feeling that makes them want to cry. But, I never cried.” She praised UMBC for the sense of community that it fosters, and also raved about the size of the campus: “It’s just big enough where you still walk a lot, but it’s not so big where you have to drive from class-to-class.” She continued, “I usually pass like five people I know, unlike a school [such as] Penn. State or Maryland [College Park].
So far, Coppersmith has really impressed in her short tenure at UMBC. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done so far,” she said. “I really give credit to my coach and my teammates, they’re always there behind me.” She made sure to give credit to freshman-catchers Logan Hawker and Anna Lonchar for helping her behind the plate.
However, not every start has been so great thus far for Coppersmith. Her worst game prior to her interview came against Leigh, where she gave up 4 earned runs in a complete game. She followed up that performance by coming into the game in relief during the second game of that double-header, and posting three perfect innings with 7 strikeouts. More recently, Coppersmith gave up a career-high 7 earned runs in just 3.2 innings. She bounced back by pitching a complete-game shutout the next day.
“Scary” was the word Coppersmith used to describe her success so far. Being near the top of the nation in multiple statistical categories is something that she hasn’t come to terms with yet. “I don’t even have words to really put to it,” she said nervously. She made sure to give credit to all of her previous, and current coaches for getting her to where she is today. “You look back and you realize, oh that just happened, like … oh okay that doesn’t increase expectations at all,” she said sarcastically.
At the end of the day, Coppersmith just wants to get on to the next game. “Statistics are one thing, but actions are even more,” she affirmed. “I’d rather just play.”
One thing that has slipped under the radar for Coppersmith is her dancing. Through all of the success, it got lost in the shuffle, but ESPN announcers pointed it out in a game against NC State. Coppersmith apparently gets so in rhythm during the game, that she begins dancing after striking hitters out. “It’s fun, I have a good time with it,” she said.
While there is still much of her story to be written in such a young career, one thing is for sure: Coppersmith has a bright future ahead of her. From her impressive statistics to her strong commitment to academics to her dancing on the field, UMBC definitely has a superstar on their hands.
Photo by Ian Feldmann.