Ten years later, Katy Adair Smith has fond memories of her time at Magnolia High School.
She credits the school, the softball program and her coaches for helping her succeed on the diamond and in life.
Adair can recall individual pitches that happened years ago and, when reflecting on the Bulldogs’ 2010 state tournament run, she remembers about 50 of them.
“I remember warming up before our semifinal game against New Braunfels Canyon and I did not throw a strike at all,” Adair said in a mid-July phone interview. “I told my catcher, Ariel Hovis, ‘What the heck, this is about to be so embarrassing.’ She was like, ‘Yeah, good luck.’”
The first four in-game pitches were balls, too. Admittedly not a great start.
“Alright, Katy, this is about to be so embarrassing if you don’t get it together right now,” Adair remembers telling herself.
Magnolia ultimately won the game 2-0 and earned its second-ever appearance in the state title game, where the Bulldogs lost 1-0 to Waco Midway in extra innings. Adair was named to the all-state tournament team in Class 4A and was The Courier’s All-Montgomery County Player of the Year.
In 2020, 10 years removed from the state tournament run, Adair still enjoys a challenge.
It’s a chance to prove somebody wrong.
‘I’m gonna do it’
Magnolia’s appearance in the 2010 state title game had its roots in the season that preceded it.
Adair was a junior, and the team was expected to go to state. The season ended with a 1-0 loss to Waltrip in the regional semifinal.
“No one thought we were going to go (my senior year),” Adair said. “My junior year, we were so stacked and were supposed to win state. We had tons of power and our lineup was super, super stacked. We didn’t go.”
As her senior year approached, expectations around the program were lower. Some mentioned a playoff appearance as an appropriate and manageable goal. Adair wasn’t having it.
“I still had one more year,” she said. “I didn’t know why everyone was already digging our graves. It kind of changed my mentality. I was so determined. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m gonna do it.”
Adair was 23-10 in the circle in her senior year with a 1.59 ERA and 233 strikeouts. On their way to the state title game, the Bulldogs beat Buda Hays, Barbers Hill, Nederland, Santa Fe, Angleton and Canyon.
The season began with The Courier’s 2010 Coach of the Year Renee Bialas asking the team what it thought were achievable goals. Adair recalls a freshman mentioning the state tournament, which drew some laughter.
That, combined with the end result of her junior season and other doubters, was all the fuel Adair needed to lead the way.
“That’s something I love to do every single day,” Adair said. “If someone says I can’t do this or can’t do that, I’m gonna do it. That’s just the competitiveness in me. I hate losing.”
The best years
Adair kept her playing days going at Galveston College.
While the goal was always to move on to a larger program, Adair cherishes her time at Galveston and said three of her friends from the school were in her wedding in 2019.
“It was just a great, great experience,” she said. “I always say those were the best years of my life.”
While playing for the Whitecaps for two seasons, Adair earned an all-conference selection, and the eyes of other coaches.
“There were a lot of girls who wanted to play after (junior college),” she said. “If you’re not on a decent team, you’re not going to get those coaches to watch you. We were a top-ranked team at Galveston, so we had coaches that would fly in for practice.”
One of those coaches was Kevin Griffin, the leader of the program at Belhaven University. The Jackson, Miss. school ended up attracting both Adair and her catcher, Denee Crawford.
Coming from a state of softball prowess like Texas, Adair and Crawford weren’t sure what to expect in Mississippi. Adair soon realized she was entering a program of like-minded players.
“Our captains got in our face a little bit and told us they were trying to win a national championship, and if we weren’t on the same boat as them, it’s going to be a struggle,” she said. “We were like, ‘Heck yeah.’”
Adair played two seasons for the Blazers and compiled a combined 24-12 record with a 2.24 ERA and 172 strikeouts, while holding opposing batters to a .230 average. In 2013, Belhaven fell a win shy of making the NAIA softball championships. In 2014, the Blazers were eliminated in the NAIA opening round.
Adair graduated from Belhaven with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Administration.
GA for a day
After her graduation from Belhaven, Adair planned to stay on as a graduate assistant for the softball program.
On her first day on the job, she got a call from a Huntsville, Texas number she didn’t recognize. She answered, and Sam Houston State University softball head coach Bob Brock was on the other end of the line.
A day into her role as a GA, Adair was offered a dream job.
“I was crying and I was praying about it,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave Mississippi. I loved it there, but at the same time, I could move back home, or 40 minutes away, and be something I always wanted to be, which was a Division I softball coach.”
Adair accepted the position and remained at Sam Houston State for four years as a pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
It wasn’t an easy transition.
“I still had that competitive grittiness to me, where I just wanted to play, play, play and win, win, win,” Adair said. “I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t in control at that point.”
In her role as recruiting coordinator, Adair watched a lot of softball and kept an eye out for the players that reminded her of people she lined up alongside at Magnolia, Galveston and Belhaven.
“You always look for the most talented players, but I was looking for that gritty player, too,” she said. “I was looking for someone who was loud and making plays. I was looking for teammates I had in the past.”
Even though her playing days were over, Adair’s competitiveness remained.
In the summer of 2018, she met her eventual husband, Zach Smith, who was a GA for the Sam Houston baseball team.
Adair laughs about it now, but early on she worried that a mishap might have ended the relationship.
Adair and Smith, who played for Cypress Ranch and Angelina College before he played for Sam Houston State, debated whether one could get a hit off the other. Being coaches that had access to the proper facilities, they took to the cages with an audience.
“He was making me so mad because he kept fouling off pitches — chipping away, chipping away,” Adair remembers. “So I threw the hardest curveball I could — he’s a lefty hitter — right into his hip. I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to break up with me.’”
Instead, Adair says, Smith respected it. But, for fear of a similar outcome, that particular competition was a one-and-done scenario.
Adair and Smith married last October.
The Bearkats softball team won the Southland Conference regular season and tournament titles in 2019, but the couple’s time in Huntsville came to an end after Smith got a job offer in Midland.
“I didn’t want to leave Sam Houston because we had just won the conference and we were taking off with the softball program,” Adair said. “But I just got married and I wasn’t going to leave my husband out in Midland by himself, so we moved.”
In a short stay out west, Adair worked for Midland ISD while coaching softball on the side.
Now the couple finds itself back in the Greater Houston area. Smith is starting a new job and Adair plans to start real estate school later this summer.
With starting a family on the young couple’s mind, Adair isn’t thinking about coaching softball right now, but she’s not ruling it out for the future.
Softball has been an important part of her life, and it’s not something she’s taken for granted.
“I’m so thankful and so blessed,” Adair said. “It’s given me so many opportunities — to be a coach, to give back, to see the players you coached do great things. It’s cool to see. I still talk to the pitchers and my teammates and some of my teammates are my best friends. It’s given me everything.”