This was the mother of great first impressions when it comes to college softball.
Freshman catcher/first baseman Olivia Johnson started her Washington career with the best offensive start in Husky history.
She was named national player of the week after her incredible start helped Washington go undefeated in five games in the season-opening Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) College Challenge.
Calling Johnson’s start incredible is not hyperbole.
Johnson began her career with home runs in her first two at-bats. She started 7 for 7 at the plate (no Husky had ever done that to start a season) and reached base in her first 15 plate appearances. Yes, 15.
It went like this:
It’s no wonder with that start that five of the walks were intentional.
Washington coach Heather Tarr had high hopes for Johnson, who hit .399 in her four years at Dawson High School in Pearland, Texas, with an on-base percentage over .500. But who could have expected this?
“I have never witnessed nearly three home runs in three consecutive at-bats starting the season,” said Tarr, who said the triple on Johnson’s third at-bat was nearly a homer. “And I didn’t expect after that, that the people would walk her intentionally. It’s early in the season, the games weren’t on the line and they were treating her like Babe Ruth.
“Did I see it coming? I know she is going to be an awesome player for us, and I think more so in who she is as a person. But if she is going to be able to do that consistently, we’re pretty happy people.”
Johnson, who was not made available to talk because of academic commitments, performed like Babe Ruth in her first week. Tarr is not concerned with how Johnson will handle the amazing early success.
“Just like being in a slump, you have to deal with being great,” Tarr said. “One thing doesn’t define you, whether it is an amazing thing or a defeating thing.”
It was also an excellent start as a team. Among the five wins for the No. 6 Huskies in Puerto Vallarta were a pair of victories over then No. 8 Arkansas.
Another Husky off to a great start is pitcher Gabbie Plain, who threw 13 scoreless innings and picked up a pair of wins. She struck out 17 while allowing just five hits and four walks. Performances like that are what the Huskies have come to expect from the fifth-year senior who is a two-time first-team All-American.
“She’s in a league of her own,” Tarr said of Plain. “The biggest thing for us is continuing to develop the staff around her.”
Washington is now in Florida, where it will play five games starting Friday in the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational. Among UW’s opponents are No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 15 Clemson, No. 18 Tennessee and No. 20 LSU.
“The results of last weekend were great, but this weekend we go into a gauntlet,” Tarr said. “We’ve just got to keep our heads above water this weekend, and on to the rest of the season.”
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