Sophomore Standout: Kailyn Johnson
April 13, 2011
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Kailyn Johnson made her collegiate softball debut in February of 2010 as just a freshman. She must have done something right in her first appearance because since then, she has been on the diamond for Penn State for all but two scheduled games.
In her opening season the California native started in 50 of 51 games at first base, replacing All-Big Ten Nittany Lion Danielle Kinley. But Johnson did more than just step into a starting position - she started to make a name for herself.
In the 2010 season Johnson recorded 41 hits, scored 12 runs, hit 11 doubles and belted out three homeruns. The left-handed freshman became a reliable offensive weapon for the Nittany Lions and finished at fourth best on the team with a .268 batting average.
This year, not much has changed.
Johnson has appeared in 33 of this season's 34 outings diamond as Penn state's first baseman and ranks second on the leader board with an offensive average of .282. She has already tallied 24 hits, seven runs, one double and a freshman season-matching three homeruns.
If you asked Johnson, she would agree that her ability to get the job done offensively is indeed her strongest asset. The sophomore said that she is not necessarily the type of player that has a plan before she heads to the plate, but usually manages to find her way onto the bases.
"I don't really think much going up there," said Johnson. "I usually just look for what's best for me at that time. So I do think about that before my at-bat - I try to get on the inside pitch or try to go on the outside but as I'm hitting I don't really think about it I just try to hit anything close."
But when Johnson does get a hit or makes solid contact with the ball, she confessed that her superstitions sometimes get the best of her before her next at-bat.
"If I get a hit, I always do the same routine for the next at-bat," said Johnson. "If it's walking into the dugout the same way, because there are two entrances, if I walk I have to walk in the same entrance - I have to put my helmet on or if I put my gloves on first I have to do that the same."
And sometimes, the matching routines go on for series of games at a time.
"If I had a really good game, I'll continue it to the next game," said Johnson. "And then if I don't get a hit I change it. But the walk-up and the routine have to be exactly the same or else I won't get a hit."
But this West Coast girl said that she isn't satisfied with her success thus far, and looks forward to improving amongst a team of many talented athletes.
"I've never really been confident in my defense and I know that I've tried to work on being more confident in my defense," said Johnson. "I think we have great team chemistry and I don't think it really matters if you're a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. I think we all treat each other equally and I think that's great because there are no bad sides of the team. I think we have great chemistry and I think that really works in our favor."
Growing up in Yorba Linda, Calif., Johnson said that she was able to play softball year-round and hone her skills in order to make it onto a Big Ten team. While most people would expect a California girl to go on to a prestigious program on the West Coast, Johnson said that there was no doubt in her mind that State College was where she wanted to be for her collegiate experience.
"I just looked at the town and I loved how pretty it was and just the atmosphere of it," said Johnson. "Being at a big school, I wanted that and I knew I wanted that and Penn State had great academics and I knew it would help me out. When I came on my official visit, being with the team and everything I knew it was just the right choice and the perfect place to be."
Just a season and a half into her time at Penn State, Johnson has high hopes for her and her teammates. With an improved overall record of 18-16 and a conference mark of 4-4, Johnson sees no reason why this season can't be the season to remember.
"We're doing good this year, a lot better than last year, and I think we have a good chance at making Regionals," said Johnson. "I think that's just our goal is to keep winning and win games that we know we can win and win games that can go both ways."
She bats third in the lineup and defends the first base on the diamond, proudly wearing the Blue and White for a second year in a row. This season, count on nothing less than a clutch performance from Kailyn Johnson in every inning of every game.