Johnson avoiding sophomore slump

By Bobby Reagan

Most people believe that, after a successful rookie year in sports, what comes next is a “sophomore slump.” But sophomore shortstop Molly Johnson of the UK softball team is proving that theory wrong.

Johnson, a Tuscon, Ariz., native, is off to an impressive second-year campaign for the Cats (13-10, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) after starting all 51 games and being named to the All-SEC Freshman team last year. She was also named SEC Freshman of the Week twice.

Instead of taking a step back, as many players do after finding success as freshmen, Johnson is making big strides forward in the clubhouse, becoming a leader on and off the diamond for UK, said head coach Rachel Lawson.

“She’s very dependable, and everyone looks at her because she has been there and knows what’s going on,” Lawson said. “She’s very successful and has turned into a great leader for us.”

Johnson said she felt the urge to step up and become a leader, especially with the freshmen, because she has three more years left with them. Johnson said she has particularly taken third baseman Annie Rowlands and catcher Megan Yocke under her wing.

“Megan and I have made a deal with each other this season that we have to calm each other down once we see the other get frustrated,” Johnson said. “We both get frustrated by the same things, so once I see her get frustrated I just tell her to take a deep breath, and vice versa.”

While making her presence known to her teammates in the dugout, Johnson has continued to make a name for herself on the field as well. She is currently enjoying a 10-game hitting streak, thanks in part to a little luck on Saturday, when she hit a two-run game-winning home run to beat No. 6 Tennessee.

“I actually missed a bunt that I was supposed to lay down originally,” Johnson said. “But, I guess it worked out pretty well.”

Johnson leads the team with a .444 batting average, three home runs, 18 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Lawson said the sophomore’s impressive start stems from her hard work during practice.

“She comes hard to practice every day and has made a commitment to getting better,” Lawson said. “Those two to three hours a day that she puts her entire effort in is starting to get shown now during games.”

Johnson said the offensive streak she is on right now is an added bonus, as she wanted to focus on getting better defensively. She credits her coaches for helping improve her all-around game.

“The coaches have worked a lot on my throwing range, and that has probably increased the most out of any part of my game,” Johnson said.