South Carolina has seen its star rise again in the collegiate softball world, and head coach Beverly Smith has guided that process since arriving as head coach in July of 2010. She oversees all aspects of the program and works most closely on the field with the pitchers. As a head coach, Smith’s overall record is 278-196, becoming only the second Gamecock softball coach with over 200 career wins.
From 2013-18, Smith has guided the Gamecocks to six-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, which is tied for the longest streak in program history. The Gamecocks have competed in the regional championship three-consecutive seasons, as the 2018 team reached the program’s second-ever super regional. The Gamecocks finished the 2018 season with an impressive 49-17 (15-9 SEC) mark on their way to a third-place finish in the SEC, their best finish since placing second in the SEC East in 2003. Carolina used the momentum from a strong conference campaign in the SEC Tournament on its way to the program’s first Tournament Championship appearance since 2001. The 49 overall wins were the most since 1999, while the 15 conference wins were the most since winning 18 in 2003. In the polls Carolina finished 11th, its highest final ranking since 1997 and the second-best finish in school history. In total, the Gamecocks broke four season records as a team (home runs, RBI, HBP, fielding percentage and double plays turned) while Jana Johns broke three individual season records (HBP, assists at third and fielding percentage at third). For the first time since 1997, Carolina had five players receive All-SEC honors (Kenzi Maguire, Mackenzie Boesel, Alyssa VanDerveer, Johns and Kelsey Oh). With national recognition, the Gamecocks had three players named to All-Region Teams (Maguire, Boesel and VanDerveer) for the first time since 1999. In the classroom, Boesel became the 10th Gamecock in program history (second under Smith) to take Academic All-America honors.
Over the course of the past six years, the team has improved its final RPI from the NCAA from No. 37 in 2013 to No. 9 in 2018. During the past eight seasons the program’s offense has posted some of its strongest seasons during Smith’s tenure, setting 28 team program records. In the per-game team records, Smith’s group holds eight of the 16 tracked. Gamecock pitching has improved markedly during that same tenure. From 2013-15, Smith’s staff improved its strikeout-to-walk ratio in each season, while the 2016 and 2017 groups posted the program’s first earned-run average under 3.00 since 2008 (2.82 in 2016, 2.96 in 2017). In 2018, the team had three different 10-plus game winners for the first time under Smith’s leadership while the trio of pitchers produced the team’s lowest ERA since 2007.
Many Gamecocks have broken out with their hard work under the watchful eye of Smith and her coaching staff. The 2018 leaders proved to be Boesel at the plate and Cayla Drotar in the circle. For the second-straight season, Boesel led the Gamecocks in nine different offensive categories (at bats, on-base percentage, hits, triples, batting average, runs, total bases, RBI and slugging percentage) while she paced the Gamecocks in two categories (doubles and walks) for the first time in her career. In the circle Drotar led the Gamecocks with 21 wins, becoming the first 20-game winner since 2015 and just the second in the past 16 years at Carolina. Drotar became the first pitcher not named Jessica Elliott or Nickie Blue to lead the team in innings pitched and wins since 2013. In league honors the Gamecocks had two players (Maguire and Tiara Duffy) named SEC Player of the Week while Johns became the first freshman in program history to be named SEC Freshman of the Week twice.
The 2017 breakout star proved to be Boesel, as well. She led the Gamecock offense in most categories, including setting a program mark for a rookie with 10 home runs and a .441 on-base percentage. The 2017 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team honoree also garnered third-team All-Southeast Region honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).
In 2016, Kaylea Snaer led NCAA Division I in doubles and broke the Gamecocks’ and SEC’s single-season marks, settling at 27 on the year. Alaynie Page set five single-season records, including a new program record of 15 home runs for a Gamecock during her 2015 NFCA First-Team All-America campaign, the first for a Gamecock under Smith.
Duffy also earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2015 as she led the Gamecocks at the plate and in the outfield during the year.
In 2014, Ashlyn Masters posted 15 single-season top-15 marks, including setting what was a new record of 0.34 doubles per game en route to NFCA Second-Team All-Southeastern Region accolades. Snaer and Nickie Blue also earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors during the year, with Blue leading the nation in saves as well as making the inaugural NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year watch list.
In Smith’s first three years, Samie Garcia paced the team at the plate in many regards. As a senior, Garcia gained 2013 First-Team Easton All-America recognition after hitting .397 on the campaign. The year prior, Lauren Lackey earned second-team Easton All-America honors, hitting .401 on the year, becoming the seventh Gamecock to hit .400 during a season. Page, Garcia and Lackey all gained All-SEC honors under Smith’s leadership during their career.
During those first three seasons, the 2013 Gamecocks advanced into postseason play for the first time under her leadership, earning spots in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. The Gamecocks set six team offensive records during the 34-25 campaign, including topping home run record set in 2012. The team scored a record 338 runs, held a .384 on-base percentage and slugged at a .450 clip. Closing the regular season with six wins in nine games, five coming on the road in SEC play, Smith led South Carolina to the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2007, where the Gamecocks defeated Kentucky in the first round. From there, the Gamecocks went to the Austin Regional, where they advanced to championship Sunday with two wins.
In 2012, South Carolina set three offensive records, with Lackey and Chelsea Hawkins both being named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Southeast Region second team.
The 2011 squad made a 15-game improvement in Smith’s first year, improving in nearly every statistical category. The pitchers under Smith lowered the team ERA by over 1.50 runs and gave up 53 less hits in 60 more innings of work.
Two Gamecocks have moved onto the National Pro Fastpitch circuit during her tenor. Garcia spent three years in the league with the NY/NJ Comets and the Pennsylvania Rebellion, getting drafted by the Comets in the fourth round of the 2013 College Draft. Page played for the NPF’s 2016 champs, the Chicago Bandits.
Not only have pros come from Smith’s time at South Carolina, but she’s also developed a coaching tree eight years in. Two of her former players and graduate assistant managers, Ashley Chastain and Kaela Jackson, serve on staffs in the Big 10 Conference (Chastain at Minnesota and Jackson on the Michigan State staff), while two former volunteer assistants are assistant coaches at big-name schools (Laura Trout, Illinois; Chrissy Schoonmaker, UConn). Fellow former volunteer assistant coach Matt Stewart has also added a branch to the Smith coaching tree, serving on the staff at Campbell. In all, seven former players or staff members are coaching elsewhere.
Prior to coming to South Carolina, Smith served as the top assistant at North Carolina, working mostly with the pitchers and catchers. The final three years, she was the associate head coach after nine as an assistant. Smith helped the Tar Heels to two Atlantic Coast Conference titles in 2001 and 2008 and eight of their nine NCAA Tournament appearances. She served as the lead recruiter for the Tar Heels during that time, helping to bring in five All-Americans into the UNC program. She also helped North Carolina achieve a top-25 ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll at least once per season from 2006-10.
She coached a pitching staff that ranked in the top 10 in the nation in ERA in three of her final four seasons at North Carolina. The 2010 squad finished 16th in NCAA Division I with a 1.92 ERA. Her top pupil was three-time All-American and two-time ACC Player of the Year Danielle Spaulding. During her final three seasons, Spaulding finished in the nation's top six in strikeouts per seven innings. In 2010, Spaulding was the toughest pitcher in the country to hit against, as she yielded just 2.61 hits per seven innings. In 2009, Spaulding led the country with 14.3 strikeouts per seven innings.
Smith also guided Crystal Cox to All-America honors, making the third team in 2006 after claiming ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2003. Amber Johnson also garnered second-team All-ACC accolades during her time under Smith. In total, five of her pitchers claimed 10 all-league honors
Her pitchers have also gone onto success as professional athletes and in coaching. Lisa Norris, a former All-ACC pitcher for Smith, took the 2010 NPF Diamond Sports Pitcher of the Year award for the pro league. Both Spaulding (Texas A&M) and Norris (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) hold pitching coach jobs with NCAA Division I teams.
Smith’s catchers also stood out in the ACC, with three claiming all-conference honors. Ally Blake and Brittany McKinney claimed spots in 2010 and 2009, respectively, while Natalie Anter made the list four times from 1999-2002. Anter also played in the 2004 Athens Olympics with the Italian national team.
Born in Asheboro, N.C., and raised in Houston, Texas, Smith spent two years at the University of Houston, starting in the academic office before working as the athletics department's marketing coordinator. She played and served as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay FireStix of the Women's Pro Softball League in 1997. During this time, she also coached Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, to three state titles and a state runner-up spot (1995-98).
A standout player for head coach Donna Papa before joining her staff, Smith was the 1994 ACC Player of the Year. A dual threat, Smith still ranks ninth in Tar Heel history in slugging percentage, second in triples, third in RBI, fifth in shutouts and seventh in ERA. Smith was honored as one of the top 50 softball players in ACC history during the league’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2002.
In addition to her coaching, Smith has been a speaker/clinician at many camps and conventions. She graduated from North Carolina in 1994 with a double major in speech communications and political science.
Bringing more than 20 years of coaching experience to the table, Lisa Navas joined South Carolina’s staff as associate head coach in July of 2012. No stranger to success, Navas links up with fellow former North Carolina assistant and current Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith after the duo spent two seasons on staff together in Chapel Hill. Navas oversees the Gamecock infielders and catchers while also assisting with all aspects of the program.
In Navas’ first six years in Columbia, the Gamecocks have appeared in the NCAA Tournament each season, posting a 229-134 mark during that time. In 2018, with the help of Navas, Carolina reached the SEC Tournament Championship game for the first time since 2001 and its second-ever super regional. Seventeen offensive team records have fallen in that period, including three in 2018. Navas helped the 2018 Gamecocks to one of the program’s best defensive years in program history, dropping several school records on their way to a program-best .979 fielding percentage. The .979 fielding percentage was good enough for second-best in the conference while the 31 double plays turned were the most in the SEC this season, a school best and the fifth-most for a conference school in SEC history. The 38 team errors were the fewest for the Gamecocks in a season since 1982 and the second-fewest ever. Under her leadership, freshman Jana Johns shined at third as she finished with the most assists for a third baseman and best fielding percentage at the position in school history on her way to being named SEC Freshman of the Week twice.
Since her arrival before the 2013 season, the Gamecocks have improved their fielding percentage from the previous year five times and turned 22 or more double plays every year. Behind the plate, Carolina catchers have thrown out 10 or more runners attempting to steal a base five times with her help.
At the start of her career, the 2013 Gamecocks garnered their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in six years, going 34-25 on the year. South Carolina set six team offensive records on the season, while the defense improved its fielding percentage from the year before. Samie Garcia earned Second-Team All-SEC and First-Team Easton All-America accolades at shortstop.
Previously, Navas worked with the since-moved Carolina Diamonds in the National Pro Fastpitch league, coaching the team in its first year of existence. The league’s owners honored Navas as part of the NPF Coaching Staff of the Year after the Diamonds had three of the top four home run hitters in the league. Rachel Folden topped the pro circuit with a 1.137 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), and Diamond pitcher Katie Burkhart ranked third in strikeouts behind former NCAA “K” champs Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott.
The first Wolfpack softball coach, Navas started the North Carolina State program in 2004, going 296-226 during her nine-year tenure. The Wolfpack won the 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles and made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament (2006-07). Eight of Navas’ student-athletes garnered first-team All-ACC honors with 10 taking National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Southeast Region accolades. For three-consecutive years, a member of the Wolfpack earned one of the league’s individual awards, including Navas’s ACC Coach of the Year in 2006, and she coached her second league Rookie of the Year in 2012, Renada Davis. In 2007, Navas tutored Abbie Sims to both the ACC Player of the Year and third-team NFCA All-America accolades.
In Navas’s two seasons with the Tar Heels under NFCA Hall-of-Famer Donna Papa, UNC twice played in the ACC Tournament championship, including winning its first tourney in 2001. Six players on those two teams achieved All-ACC honors, while Tiffany Tolleson grabbed second-team NFCA All-America status in 2002 under Navas’s tutelage. North Carolina set the school home run record in 2002 while Navas oversaw the hitting.
Navas’s first head-coaching run came at NCAA Division II member Barry, where she guided the Buccaneers to six regionals, two Sunshine State Conference crowns and a second-place finish in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. In her nine years at the south Florida school, she led Barry to a 335-134-1 (.714) record.
Navas started her coaching career at Missouri under NFCA Hall of Fame head coach Jay Miller. Working as the Tigers’ hitting coach, she helped the team to its second NCAA Women’s College World Series appearance. Three Tigers earned Academic All-America awards from CoSIDA.
An all-conference shortstop in her own right, Navas played four years at NAIA member Oklahoma City, helping the team to a second-place finish in the 1986 NAIA Tournament.
Active in both the NFCA and on NCAA committees, Navas headed the NCAA Division II Softball Championship Committee for two years and led the NFCA All-America Committee for one. She also speaks regularly at coaches clinics and associations throughout the east. She notably recently complete her second year on the ASA coaching pool. As a selecting member, Navas plays a role in picking the U.S. National Team.
Kaela Jackson, one of the brightest young minds in college softball, joined South Carolina as an assistant coach for the 2019 season. Jackson, a South Carolina alumna, joins the Carolina staff after three successful years at Michigan State and will primarily work with the Gamecock hitters.
Most recently, Jackson served as an assistant coach at Michigan State, where she helped lead the Spartan offense to top-10 finishes in 12 different categories in two of her three years. In 2018, she guided Michigan State to a 26-26 record with wins over Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and FIU. In 2017, the Spartans were ranked in the top-25 nationally in batting average (No. 21), slugging percentage (No. 6), doubles per game (No. 8) and home runs per game (No. 9). That year MSU also set offensive team records for runs (345), batting average (.313), home runs (66), RBI (320), total bases (820), slugging percentage (.528) and on-base percentage (.405).
While at Michigan State, she notably tutored All-American Lea Foerster three of her four years at MSU where she established single season records in runs (190), doubles (75) and extra base hits (118). She also notably assisted Kaitlyn Eveland to a .403 batting average in 2017 as she became just the fifth athlete at MSU to hit .400 in a season.
Jackson started her collegiate coaching career as a volunteer assistant at South Carolina, where she coached first base in all competitions and managed infield practice and strategy with associate head coach Lisa Navas among numerous other responsibilities. In 2015, serving as the volunteer assistant, Jackson helped the Gamecocks to 38 wins (10 of which came in SEC play) as the Gamecocks reached the Tallahassee Regional.
Prior to her role as volunteer assistant, she served as a graduate manager for the Gamecocks.
During her time as graduate manager, Jackson earned a M.S. degree in exercise science after she earned a B.S. degree in Psychology from Carolina. Jackson also earned an associate’s degree in 2010 at Chattanooga State Community College.
As a student athlete, she started her career at CSCC, where she was an NJCAA All-American in 2010. During the 2010 season, she helped lead the Tigers to an NJCAA World Series appearance, finished fourth in the country in homers and was named team captain.
Jackson later transferred to South Carolina, where she was a two-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and was named a team captain in 2012. A native of Morristown, Tenn., she played 26 games for Smith as the designated player in 2012 on her way to earning Capital One Academic All-District honors.