Coppersmith, UMBC Dancing All The Way To Norman
Courtney Coppersmith likes to enjoy herself on the softball field. The University of Maryland Baltimore County pitcher says she is at her best when she’s having fun.
“I try to go out there and just have some fun. There have been multiple videos of me caught dancing on camera, on the mound,” Coppersmith said. “I get super excited and I jump. Normally a lot of the time I'm smiling, goofing around, and just like having a ball at the end of the day.”
Coppersmith’s talent and infectious personality are just a few of the reasons UMBC is where it’s at today. And that’s preparing to play in the NCAA Tournament.
The Retrievers take their 30-22 record to Norman, Okla. where they will face No. 1 Oklahoma (49-2) in their opening game Friday. OU is riding an NCAA record 39-game win streak.
While facing a squad with the legacy of the Sooners would seem daunting to many schools, Coppersmith is looking forward to the opportunity to show they are not a fluke.
“It means everything honestly. We were really looked down upon coming into this season, by everyone else around us,” Coppersmith said. “There was no expectation for us to go anywhere. Simply because people doubted our program due to previous years. So, the fact that we went from being the seventh overall pick out of our conference to winning the championship and now competing against the number one team in the nation. It's breathtaking.”
When the season began, playing in the NCAA tournament seemed like a far-off dream for Coppersmith. The Retrievers lost three of their first four games and were still searching for who they were going to be this season.
But during that rough stretch, first-year head coach Chris Kuhlmeyer saw Coppersmith emerge.
“She’s definitely a diamond in the rough,” Kuhlmeyer said. “She’s a kid from Pennsylvania that only a few people knew about. She was injured in the summer and didn’t pitch all fall. So I had no idea what she was 100 percent capable of until right into the spring practice just a few weeks before we started playing and be able to see what her full arsenal was. You saw from the very beginning that was potentially something special there.”
Coppersmith’s welcome to college moment came early in the season when UMBC traveled to NC State’s Fairfield Inn Crabtree Invitational. After coming off the bench in relief the previous two games, Coppersmith got the start against the Wolfpack in the finale. In six innings of work, she allowed three hits, two runs and struck out 14 batters in a 2-1 loss.
"That was my first real opening to the season. The fact that I had as much success as I did in that game shocked me,” Coppersmith said. “I was not anticipating having as much success as I had. Especially, just because, you come in as a freshman and obviously you watch things on TV and you hope that that's what it's going to be, but as soon as you get there, sometimes it's a little more doubt for people.”
Coppersmith went on to finish the regular season with a 21-12 record. She posted a 1.62 ERA, allowed 117 hits and struck out 342 batters in 229 innings. She accumulated double-digit strikeouts in 17 of her 30 starts and recorded five no-hitters.
She also became the first player in America East history to be named both Rookie and Pitcher of the Year.
“When she gets in the circle, she has a big presence and demands a lot of attention,” Kuhlmeyer said. “She carries herself with a lot of confidence. She has a very gritty attitude out that and an attitude that no one can beat her.”
However, there have been moments this season when Kuhlmeyer has had to try and calm his ace down. But as Coppersmith explained, there is a reason for that.
“Obviously, I've talked with him about this multiple times and I told him I am just a freshman,” Coppersmith said. “It's not an excuse but it is an excuse at the same time. There are a lot of people on my team, obviously, they're older, they've been through more games, especially at this level."
"People don't think of how much of a transition it is from playing high school and playing travel ball to coming to college. Because there is a lot more pressure on you. And it's just all on you, most of the time all at once. Sometimes when that doesn't work in my favor or something's not working, it can get me down.”
Along with dealing with the rigors of being a full-time athlete, Coppersmith is also majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Like all student-athletes, the future pharmacist has had to figure out how to achieve a balance this first year.
“It's definitely a very, very, very hard balancing act,” Coppersmith said. “But, it's something that you really have to get used to and that's what the fall helps with. But as you continue to progress in college, the classes just get harder and harder and harder. So, hopefully, by next year and the year after that it will get a little easier.”
Regardless of how UMBC ends the season, Coppersmith says this has been a great learning experience.
“At the end of the day, no matter what, there's no expectation for us and we've already proven ourselves and gone so much farther than anybody expected us to,” Coppersmith said. “So, we'll see how far we can go and have fun with it and just feel our pride at the end of the day. 'Cause that's all that matters.”