Gophers softball coach Jessica Allister addressed the need to replace All-American pitcher Sara Groenewegen on Tuesday, adding a standout transfer from Louisiana State with Minnesota roots.
Sydney Smith, who went 54-1 at Maple Grove High School and posted a 1.64 ERA in two years at LSU, comes to the Gophers with two years of eligibility remaining and the green light to play for Minnesota next season.
Smith was the 2015 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
“Sydney will add experience and depth to our young pitching staff,” Allister said in the news release. “We can’t wait to get her on campus and into a Gopher uniform this fall.”
NCAA Division I softball has a different transfer rule than football, basketball and baseball that allows a player to switch schools once in her career without having to sit out for one season.
Last summer, the Gophers added two transfers: shortstop Allie Arneson (from Virginia) and pitcher Tori Finucane (Missouri). Arneson immediately became one of the best defensive shortstops in the Big Ten and posted a .461 on-base percentage over 60 games.
Finucane went 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA for the Gophers in a supporting role behind Groenewegen. By the postseason, the team’s clear No. 2 pitcher was Amber Fiser, who went 14-0 with a 1.68 ERA.
Finucane was a senior, but Fiser was only a freshman. After going 56-5 last season and losing to Alabama in the NCAA tournament, the Gophers could pair Fiser and Smith together for the next two seasons.
Smith went 13-4 with a 1.16 ERA in 2016 and was a top-25 national freshman of the year finalist. This year, she went 12-7 with a 2.08 ERA for an LSU team that advanced to the College World Series.