Watkins’ speed an asset on both defense, offense

WKU sophomore infielder Olivia Watkins barely misses a tag during a game against Troy on Friday at the WKU Softball Complex. WKU lost the game 9-1 before winning the last two games of the series.

Hasani Grayson

Players may go through slumps through the course of a season.

But when it comes to sophomore infielder Olivia Watkins, Head Coach Tyra Perry knows one thing will be consistent.

“Speed never goes in a slump,” Perry said. “You can have a big power hitter, and they can be hitting one day and go in a slump the next day, but someone that’s fast is always going to be fast.”

Watkins leads the team in stolen bases, reaching safely in 15 of 17 attempts this season.

She said her speed can give opposing defenses trouble whenever she makes contact with the ball.

“Every time I put the ball in play, the defense will usually make an error because I’m so fast, and they’re rushing,” Watkins said.

She said that when she gets on base, she creates opportunities for the offense and changes the strategy of the hitters behind her.

“It’s big for me to get on base, because they don’t have to waste a bunt or get a hit to get me to second when I can steal and get into scoring position,” she said.

But Watkins also said that her speed alone doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have to work on her base running technique.

“We work on base running in practice, and leads are a big part of stealing,” she said. “If you don’t get a good lead, you get bad jump, and it’s downhill from there.”

Watkins also added that it’s important to time the pitcher to get a good lead, and that she times the pitcher’s delivery when she’s in the on deck circle.

The offensive benefits of having a player with Watkins can be pretty obvious to the other team’s defense, but the pitchers on her own team are growing to appreciate her glove as well.

During WKU’s game on Saturday against Troy, sophomore pitcher Emily Rousseau was trying to preserve a no-hitter when she got bailed out on a play that might have been ruled a hit had the runner reached base safely.

With a runner on base who had reached on an error, a Trojan player hit a ground ball hard in the direction of sophomore shortstop Amanda Thomas. She had difficulty fielding the ball as it ricocheted off her arm and toward second base.

Watkins, who had moved over to cover second, kept her foot on the bag and gloved the ball to record the third out in the inning and keep the no-hitter intact.

Even though she would lose the no-hitter in the seventh inning, Rousseau was appreciative of Watkins’ effort.

“On defense, she’s getting the ones in the holes that some players just can’t get to,” Rousseau said. “I feel like I can pitch anything, and they’ll have my back.”

Rousseau also commented on how Watkins doesn’t have to hit the ball hard to get on base.

“She puts out a little dinker, and she’s there,” Rousseau said. “It’s just ridiculous. I wish I was that fast.”

Watkins is also confident in her speed and said that she often thinks she is faster than anyone on the other team’s roster.

She said that her base-stealing ability could be useful down the stretch as WKU continues its conference schedule.

Watkins, currently third on the team in on base percentage at .371, said WKU can do well in Sun Belt Conference play in the upcoming weeks and hopes to continue getting on base to help her team.

“We have a chance of winning the whole thing, so I’m really excited,” Watkins said.