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HELENA — Carroll College senior shortstop Brittany Smith made sure to take some time to look back on her career.

Sitting on a bus on her way to the Cascade Collegiate Conference softball tournament this weekend in Ashland, Oregon, in what could be her final softball games, she has no regrets on the decisions she made.

She even chuckled when she reminisced about her first fielding error during the very first play of her college career.

After all, that’s where it all began.

“I totally broke down and didn’t know if I was capable of playing this position,” Smith said.

See, Smith didn’t grow up playing shortstop. She was a pitcher for Helena Capital High.

And she was a pretty good one, who stayed in her hometown after being given an opportunity to play at Carroll.

But after a few weeks of bullpen sessions, Saints coach Aaron Jackson approached her with a proposition to play shortstop.

“We knew she was a good athlete and thought it would be a smooth transition,” Jackson said.

Smith thought back to her time playing second base on occasion and knew she had the confidence to make the move. She realized she enjoyed stepping out of the circle and came back to her coach with an encouraging response.

“I took on the challenge and here we are four years later,” Smith said.

Picking up a new position took a lot of getting back to the fundamentals.

With the help of former teammate and mentor Justine Taylor, Smith had to learn where the ball was going to go, learn how to be vocal with her teammates and change her mindset.

After years of coaches having the confidence to hand her the ball every other day, she realized it wasn’t up to her anymore. She had to take a step back.

“It was hard not being able to control the game,” Smith said. “When you are a pitcher, you are involved in every play. I wasn’t pushed back, but I was in a different position. I knew I couldn’t make the big game decisions.”

She mostly watched from the bench as the Saints finished with 24 wins her freshman season.

The next year, she was quickly inserted into the starting lineup. She batted just .244 with four RBIs, but her new position was coming easier to her, and she finished with a .934 fielding percentage.

As her career continued, her determination to improve paid off.

She has set the program’s record for most career games played at shortstop and has committed just nine errors in 36 games played.

“People thought I played shortstop my whole life,” Smith said. “I’m kind of the secret weapon.”

As the Saints get ready for their first-round game against No. 17 Corban University on Friday, Jackson knows he will have to look for another shortstop next season, but for now, he wouldn’t have any other person at that position.

As for next season, Jackson’s recruiting class is already lined up. He might not have to create a new shortstop, but he knew rolling the dice on Smith was going to pay off.

“There has never been a doubt in my mind,” Jackson said. “She just works super hard and makes outstanding plays on a consistent basis.”

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Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

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