#TGW: Katie Bar The Door

March 25, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

– There’s a wisdom a senior has that a freshman does not, a wisdom that comes with experience.

Up Next: NC State (13-10, 3-1) at Mewborn Field. Saturday (Pink Day), 1 p.m., 3 p.m., Sunday, noon, (Alumni Day).

That wisdom allows senior right fielder Katie Johnsky to take the good with the bad and keep a positive mindset, as she’s seen both in her career at Georgia Tech.

She’s living both this season.

The Sarasota, Fla., native and former Sarasota High School star, has produced at a career-best level, but the Jackets (11-20 heading into Wednesday’s game at No. 5 Alabama, 4-8 in the ACC) have struggled, dropping 13 of their 20 games by three-or-fewer runs, seven of those by one run.

Johnsky headed into Wednesday’s game against the Crimson Tide hitting a sizzling .397, (eighth in the ACC, 70 points higher than her nearest teammate), with a .520 on-base percentage (fifth in the conference and 50 ahead of the closest Jacket), and 20 walks (fifth in the ACC, one behind teammate Sam Pierannunzi), and that’s after snapping a 1-for-13 skid Tuesday night with a 2-for-3 night in the Jackets’ 7-6 loss at Georgia State, in which Tech rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh.

“I’m a senior, I’ve kind of been through everything and I’ve finally found my confidence at the plate. I’m just comfortable up there,” said Johnsky, who torched the Panthers for a double, a triple, a run scored and three more driven in. “I think this year I’m just staying calm, being confident in myself, in my ability to see the ball, hit the ball.”

Tuesday was the ninth multi-hit game of the season and seventh multi-RBI effort for Johnsky, who also leads the Jackets in hits (31), doubles (7), and slugging percentage (.615).

It’s the kind of season every senior wants individually, especially bouncing back from a tough junior season, in which she hit .240 (down 105 points from 2012), with 31 hits (down 26 from `12), and five doubles (down eight), in 46 games (45 starts), all career-lows.

“I was battling an injury last year but nothing too crazy, it was just a little back issue,” she said. “This year I’ve really turned it around. I’m feeling healthy, I’m with the trainers all the time, stretching and getting ready to go for this year.

“The only thing I really think about is leave it all out on the field because it is my last season,” she added. “I have nothing to hold back this year.”

Head coach Shelly Hoerner feels that Johnsky has overcome the only thing that had been holding her back — herself.

“Her mental game is just unreal right now,” said Hoerner. “She’s spent a lot of time on her mental game, more so than her physical game. I think that’s really helped her in becoming the hitter that she is right now. She’s just a great student of the game.

“She’s our most consistent hitter,” Hoerner added. “She’s so confident right now. That’s a big thing. Another senior, being experienced. You can tell that her confidence and her senior leadership is very high and she’s leading this team.”

A four-year starter in the outfield, Johnsky has never wavered defensively. She’s perfect in the field in 2015 and hasn’t made an error since the first game of the April 13, 2013 doubleheader against Maryland, a streak of 92 straight games heading into Wednesday. She has committed only three errors in her career.

Her performance at the plate and in the field has allowed Johnsky, who graduates in May with a degree in Business Administration, to accomplish one major goal she’d set for herself heading into her final season on The Flats, to set the kind of positive example that rubs off positively on the young outfielders.

“I would say I lead out in the field by example,” she said. “Maybe I’m a little more vocal when somebody needs to get on them about it but other than that I like to lead on the field. I work so hard and I just hope that they can see that I’m working hard and that I’m performing and they would want to work hard so that they can perform just as well.”

Hoerner has seen Johnsky’s example pay off in the development of sophomore centerfielder Pierannunzi and freshman Draven Sonnon and sophomore Colleen Darragh amongst others.

“We talk about `You learn from everybody else.’ Whether it’s a freshman, sophomore, senior, junior, it doesn’t matter. You just learn from each other,” she said. “With that senior leading so well, as in Johnsky, you just continue to watch and you want to emulate that. Especially someone like Sam, definitely wants to do that because Sam’s such a good player herself.”

With 18 games left in the regular season, and a brutal stretch of 12 straight games on the road after this weekend looming, the Jackets are trying to gather some momentum. Johnsky believes they are due to start getting some breaks and will do so.

She should know. She’s seen it before.

“We fight a lot and eventually we’re going to come out on top,” she said. “We’re all coming around and I can see it. It’s very important that we’re peaking at the end of the year when tournament play comes around.”

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