Success story: Johnson makes big impact for JimmiesIf only Kate Johnson continued to log entries into a softball diary, a practice that at one time was a daily routine for the Jamestown College junior first baseman. What a wild month she’d have just feverishly scribbled.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
If only Kate Johnson continued to log entries into a softball diary, a practice that at one time was a daily routine for the Jamestown College junior first baseman.
What a wild month she’d have just feverishly scribbled.
From March 28 to April 22, Johnson batted .551 from the cleanup spot in the Jimmie lineup, clubbing 9 doubles, 8 home runs and driving in 40 RBIs.
It was all part of a 22-game hitting streak, which stands as a new Jamestown College record. But that wasn’t the only bar Johnson set during her tear at the plate.
On April 14, Johnson went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and 8 RBIs in a 13-8 Jimmie victory over Great Falls, Mont. Johnson’s 8 RBIs set a new school mark for runs batted in during a single game.
“I’d like to have four or five more just like her,” Jamestown College head coach Kevin Gall said. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had anyone put up those types of power numbers, and every good team in the country has one or two of them.”
Growing up in Victoria, B.C. a typical journal entry for Johnson probably described how much farther the budding slugger was able to hit the ball on that particular evening along the Salish Sea in western Canada.
Keeping a diary was a decision her coach decided she ought to try. It would act as an instrument to measure her progress.
Her childhood coach was also her father, Norman Johnson.
“I’m sure they’re still around the house somewhere,” Kate Johnson laughed. “I kept them when I was like seven, eight and nine. I wrote what I was successful at that day and how long I did it for.
“My dad used to say things like, ‘If you want to play, you have to get better,’ and the diary showed how many hours I logged. He wanted to see me succeed, and luckily I am for him.”
Johnson’s success with the bat this season has helped the Jimmies (26-19) to their first conference championship since 1992. Currently, Johnson is second on the team in batting average (.410) and hits (57), and is leading the team in slugging percentage (.748), doubles (17), home runs (10), RBIs (55) and walks (17).
Johnson’s RBI total currently ranks 16th in the NAIA, but her runs batted in per game average of 1.222 stands at No. 12 overall.
Those numbers are even staggering to Johnson, who redshirted with the Jimmies last season after transferring from Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas.
“This is exceeding anything I ever thought I was capable of,” Johnson said. “I always knew I was a good hitter, but I’ve never played like this before.”
What about the 22-game hitting streak?
“It was a very surreal feeling. It really didn’t feel like it was happening,” Johnson said. “I was really fortunate to have the teammates that I have that get on base and I can drive them in. My mom always asked me how I was dealing with (the streak), and I just tried not to think about it.”
Margaret Johnson, along with Norman, have watched their daughter play on the diamond since she was 5, when the ball was placed on a tee. That didn’t change this year, as her parents were able to take in a few Jimmie games during Jamestown College’s early-season road trip to Tucson, Ariz.
Johnson kicked off that road trip with a grand slam in a 9-3 Jimmie victory over Calumet-St. Joseph on March 4.
“We’re certainly happy to have her,” Gall said. “She’s such a good person, and I’ve told her a few times now that she reminds me a lot of Kelli Duvall.”
Duvall played for the Jimmies from 2000-03, and she still holds Jamestown College single-season records in home runs (13), RBIs (70), runs (66), hits (tied-86), doubles (tied-20) and triples (tied-7).
“Kelli played third base for us for three years and she’s probably the best softball player I’ve ever coached,” Gall said. “Kelli was always laughing, having fun and played the game the right way, and that’s how Kate is.
“She loves to be on the field, she loves to be in the dugout, she loves to be at practice. That makes coaching a lot more fun and a lot easier, when you have players like that.”
Johnson was on Gall’s recruiting radar after the Jimmies’ recruited former pitcher Alyssa Record from Frank Phillips College during Johnson’s freshman year in Texas.
“We signed Alyssa and their coach said I should take a look at Kate,” Gall recalled. “I did the old recruiting over the phone, and once in a while you actually get lucky.”
“Coach Gall is a very relaxed coach, and when we start to do well you can tell he’s excited and into the game. Everyone picks up on that and we have fun with it,” Johnson said. “When we’re having fun the team is doing well, and that’s what this is all about.”
Johnson, Gall and the Jimmies are hoping that fun continues today in Portland, N.D., as the Jimmies face Mayville State in the opening round of the DAC Tournament at noon.
Already having the conference title in hand, Jamestown College would like to have the tournament title in hand as well.
Jamestown College has also locked up the No. 4 seed for the A.I.I tournament and will face Dickinson State in Columbus, Ga. on May 7. The top two teams from that tourney will advance to the NAIA National Tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala. on May 17-23.
Jamestown College has one NAIA National Tournament appearance (1992).
“Right now our goal is to do well and win the (DAC) conference tournament, so we can make a push towards Georgia,” Johnson said. “The players on this team want to go to Alabama, and that is something this team hasn’t accomplished in a while.
“Coach told us our season isn’t going to end until May 23, so don’t plan on going anywhere soon.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org