Jackson Smith continues to thrive with simple approach at plate for Providence. ‘He sees the ball and hits it.’

After hitting .511 last season, Providence’s Jackson Smith knows he has set quite a high standard for himself to live up to.

But while the senior shortstop is showing no signs of slowing down, he’s not too concerned about stats.

“It’s a high number to try to top that average from last year, but I just play baseball to have fun,” Smith said. “The numbers are the numbers. I don’t really care about that.”

Nonetheless, Smith put up some big numbers Wednesday in New Lenox.

The Bradley recruit went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, raising his batting average to .518 and leading the host Celtics to an 11-1 win over Marist in a Do It Stevie’s Way Tournament first-round game.

Creighton recruit Nate O’Donnell went 2-for-2 with a three-run homer for Providence (13-3). He also earned the victory on the mound, striking out five over five innings and allowing five hits. Cooper Eggert went 2-for-3 with two runs and John Greenwood added a two-run single.

Harry Young had an RBI single for Marist (5-9), while Ryan Lawlor singled and scored a run.

Smith bashed a 3-1 pitch over the left-center field wall for a grand slam in the third inning. It came after Oklahoma recruit Enzo Infelise walked to load the bases with two outs.

“They put Enzo on, so I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to try to get a good ball here,’” Smith said. “I got something I could handle and took it over the fence for a grand slam. It felt great.”

While Smith might have been a bit off the radar on opponents’ scouting reports at the start of last season, he knows that is certainly not the case anymore.

So, he’s adjusting the way he approaches his at-bats.

“I’m pretty sure they know who’s up to the plate, so I’m going to get a lot more off-speed,” Smith said. “That’s kind of been my approach this year. I’m sitting way back because I know I’m going to get a lot more curveballs and stuff like that.”

O’Donnell hits behind Smith in the Celtics’ lineup. He’s glad he gets to watch Smith bat from the on-deck circle rather than try to get him out.

“He’s just gritty,” O’Donnell said. “He doesn’t get out easily. He sees the ball and hits it. He’s a player.”

O’Donnell jump-started the Celtics with a three-run homer in the first inning Wednesday. Providence scored four times in the first, four more in the third and three in the fourth.

Smith continues to lead the way.

“He’s just a very, very good baseball player,” said Providence coach Mark Smith, who is not related to Jackson. “His attitude is great. He’s very even-keeled. If he goes 0-for-4, he doesn’t get frustrated. If he goes 4-for-4, he doesn’t get overly elated. He just does his thing.

“He plays baseball. He’s having a nice season.”

Jackson Smith was not heavily recruited early in his Providence career but stayed patient as he waited for Division I offers. He committed to Bradley last August.

“I thought I was good enough to be somewhere in D-I last year and I’m glad someone saw it,” Jackson Smith said. “Over the summer, I just knew if someone saw me play, they’d see something in me. That’s what happened.

“I’m ready to keep playing baseball for a long time.”

Mark Smith is confident Jackson is just getting started.

“He was a thin kid and he’s slowly starting to fill out,” Mark said. “He’s still got a lot more growth to him. He’s gotten a lot stronger. His willingness and desire to get in the weight room have helped tremendously.

“The sky’s going to be the limit for him as he goes on. He’s got a chance to have a long baseball career.”