Johnson makes most of opportunities

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Johnson makes most of opportunities

Freshman utility player Tori Johnson is batting  .261 in her first season with the Panthers. She is 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts.

Freshman utility player Tori Johnson is batting .261 in her first season with the Panthers. She is 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts.

Jehad Abbed

Freshman utility player Tori Johnson is batting .261 in her first season with the Panthers. She is 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts.

Jehad Abbed

Jehad Abbed

Freshman utility player Tori Johnson is batting .261 in her first season with the Panthers. She is 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts.

Sean Hastings, Staff reporter

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Freshman softball player Tori Johnson does not usually start for the Panthers but makes the most of every opportunity she gets to play in the game.

Johnson sure did make the most of her opportunity to start last weekend against Southeast Missouri as she led the team offensively in the three games.

She went 4-for-9 in the three games and also scored a run for the Panthers.

Johnson said she was happy with how she played in the games against Southeast Missouri

“It felt good, because I could contribute to my team and let them know that I am able to help them out in any way that I can,” Johnson said.

She said she went into the game just making sure that she was prepared to do whatever she needed to do in order to help the Panthers get a win.

Johnson is a big asset for the team, because she can play at almost every position on the field.

Coming into Eastern, Johnson’s main position was shortstop, but she has seen time in the outfield, on the mound, at second base and third base in her first year as a Panther.

“I’ll just play wherever they put me,” Johnson said.

She has seen a majority of her time in the outfield this year, which was new for her, because she was always mainly an infielder.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot in the outfield,” Johnson said. “Coming here I was mainly an infielder, so I learned a lot with outfield work.”

Johnson is one of few players on the team that can play in any spot on the field and can be relied on to get the job done there.

She also said she feels comfortable no matter where she plays.

Eastern coach Angie Nicholson loves how Johnson can be utilized in so many ways and knows how important that is for the team.

“It’s very important,” Nicholson said. “I would love everybody to do that, ideally.”

Johnson also has seen a lot of pinch-hit and pinch-run opportunities this year. She is 3-for-3 in stolen bases on the year.

When Johnson goes to steal a base, she said she makes sure to get a good leadoff and take off as soon as the pitcher releases the ball.

Her speed is another important part of her game that she brings to the team.

Nicolson said she is the type of coach who loves speed and likes to make things happen on the bases. Also, to have players in the lineup that can do that for them is big.

Even though Johnson comes off the bench to pinch-run, her legs are already to run.

“In between innings, we’re supposed to run down to the fence and back so my legs are usually always warm, and I’m ready to go,” Johnson said.

Johnson has appeared in 20 games this year and has a batting average of .261. She also has two runs batted in and has scored five runs for the Panthers.

Just as a few other hitters have, Johnson has had to change up her swing a little bit to hit how the coaches want her to hit.

Johnson said that the new hitting style has worked out for her.

Since she is relied on to pinch run and pinch-hit for the Panthers, paying attention to the pitcher and knowing what she is doing on the mound is very important for her.

“In the beginning of every game I make sure I get a good spot to where I can see the pitcher,” Johnson said. “I make sure I ask the people who have batted before me how they do and go from there to get my mind right to hit.”

Nicholson believes Johnson has a lot of potential and room to improve.

“Tori has a lot of potential, and I’m hoping she’s seeing and realizing that she has an opportunity in front of her to go out and grab it,” Nicholson said.

Johnson has three years left at Eastern and looks to just keep improving as she has throughout the 2015 season.

“I just want to keep improving and keep doing my job whether it be cheering on the team or helping out in any way I can,” Johnson said.

Johnson has one more weekend of games against Sothern Illinois-Edwardsville this weekend for the regular season. Then her and the rest of the Panthers will head to the Ohio Valley Conference tournament Wednesday, May 6 and look to make some noise there.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].