Above Average: Watkins wraps up record setting senior season

Senior second baseman Olivia Watkins cheers on her team during the first game of a double-header against the University of Louisville on March 19, 2014. (Luke Franke/HERALD)

Austin Lanter

Senior infielder Olivia Watkins’ career at WKU is coming to an end, but she has made sure her name is written in the record books a few times before she goes.

Watkins and four other seniors were honored between games against South Alabama Saturday for Senior Day and will play their final home game as Lady Toppers Tuesday against Evansville at 5 p.m.

“Basically, it’s my last series playing with them ever as a team,” Watkins said. “They’re my sisters and it’ll never be the same and that’s probably one of the big emotions. It’s my last time playing a series on the home field so of course there’s going to be emotions.”

The Florence, Ala., native currently holds the single-season hit record (75) for her efforts this season and continues to add to that total. The senior also holds the single-season record for stolen bases (52) and currently leads the conference and nation in that category.

“She’s a quiet leader,” coach Amy Tudor said. “She leads more by example. To steal over 50 bags in a season is huge. The kid is beyond talented.”

For Watkins, it’s the stolen bases that she crowns as her biggest achievement.

“I don’t know [why],” Watkins said. “Most people aren’t blessed with speed, choosing the right pitch to go or trying to play with the catcher’s mind. I don’t think everybody has that ability.”

Watkins also leads the team in batting average (.431) and runs (47) this season and has had multiple hits in 12 games this season and 50 times in her career. 

Despite all the hits over her career, she has never hit a home run for WKU.

“It’s hard to put in words how good the kid is,” Tudor said. “She is a three-tool player. She’s great defensively, she’s got speed and she’s great at the plate.”

Watkins and the rest of the senior class has accumulated a 137-92-2 record while at WKU. The group led the Lady Toppers to their first Sun Belt Conference title in history last season for their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament where they fell to Alabama in the second round.

“That team (in 2013) was probably the most successful team I’ve ever been on,” Watkins said. “It really meant a lot and especially that we got to experience going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time is Western’s history.”

Even though it was uncharted territory for the team a year ago, Watkins said she was not that nervous going in.

“I was actually more excited than nervous,” she said. “Because going into that tournament, we were kind of like that underdog. We had nothing to lose so why not be excited and give it 100 percent.”

Her teammates see her as a leader as well, even those who have battled by her side since day one. Senior infielder Kelsie Mattox has been at WKU with Watkins since they were freshmen and has watched her develop into one of the Sun Belt’s most dynamic playmakers.

“She’s such a great leader on and off the field,” Mattox said. “She brings a lot of heart and excitement to the game, but yet in a serious way. Great athlete, great player, super fast, just raw talent. It’s been fun to play with her and watch her grow from freshman year to now. She has a bright future ahead, especially if she goes off and continues to the next level.”

As for the future, Watkins said she plans to attend pharmacy school after graduation and credits her softball career for her development as an individual on and off the field.

“It meant a lot,” Watkins said. “It helped me grow as a woman, actually, and I created a lot of relationships that I will probably have for a lifetime. I’m grateful for that.”