Out of the park

Softball underclassmen commit early

Deciding what college to go to can take years, and even some seniors don’t know where they want to go. However, these two underclassmen have their collegiate futures planned before most students their age can even begin applying.

Brooke Johnson, 10

Sophomore Brooke Johnson, the starting third baseman on varsity, committed to play softball at Harding University in Arkansas in January. Despite being 15, Johnson felt confident in her decision.

Maya Hernandez

“It just felt like home the second I got there,” Johnson said. “When you know, you just have that feeling.”

By committing, Johnson now has the stress of applying to colleges lifted.

“It felt like a really big relief just to know where I’m going, who I’m going to be with, so it’s really nice,” Johnson said.

Johnson started playing softball at 8, when her friend asked her to play catch in her front yard. She started in a rec league soon after, where she learned the basics and fell in love with the game.

“It’s just crazy to think that we’d be like ‘Okay, we’re going to try to get ten throws without dropping the ball,’ and now we’re throwing all the way across, and we make it every single time,” Johnson said.

Johnson has put in years of practices and competition, never giving up on her goal to excel.

“Her passion for the game is evident,” Head Coach Christy Tumilty said. “She works hard, she really doesn’t ever appear to have a day off. “

Despite putting in hours of hard work to be the best athlete she could, Johnson had a period of time where she doubted her own skills and abilities as a player.

“Some of it’s been really hard this past summer because personally, I just wasn’t mentally there and that was really hard. I had to overcome a lot of adversity,” Johnson said.

However, when Harding University started to show interest in her, she started to gain more confidence, falling back in love with the game just as she had years ago in her friend’s front yard.

“At first it was a little scary, but the second that I got there, I was like ‘this is where I want to go,’” Johnson said. “I loved the coach, I loved the players.”

Haidyn Sokoloski, 9 

Freshman Haidyn Sokoloski, the starting shortstop on varsity, committed to Oklahoma State University as a power hitter and utility player in 2018. Acco

Maya Hernandez

rding to Sokoloski, committing while in middle school was nerve wracking at first, since people questioned her for making such a large decision so young. However, she was happy with her decision.

“I felt so relieved. I was so happy and everything was just so fun at the moment because it was nice to know that I could have a future there,” Sokoloski said.

When she’s on the field, she is focused on the game unfolding before her, watching each movement of the other players and preparing to make a play at any moment.
“She’s athletic, she brings that athleticism and strength to the game,” Head Coach Christy Tumilty said. “She is quick and fast on the bases, she’s so fluid that before you know it she’s at third [base].”

While playing, Sokoloski says she goes on autopilot. Her training takes over while she enjoys the game and focuses on doing her best. However, she keeps her commitment to OSU on her mind at all times.

“I don’t focus on the small things that happen at school, drama or any of that, because I know that I have a goal to play at OSU and that’s where all my focus is,” Sokoloski said.

Sokoloski is the only freshman on varsity, but she feels as though she’s truly a part of the team and has made close friendships with her teammates.

“When you’re on varsity, you’re a varsity-level player. You’re not a freshman playing varsity and you’re not a senior playing varsity,” Tumility said. “She’s a varsity player bottom line, and she just happens to be a freshman.”

Now, all she has to do is focus on becoming a stronger player for OSU.

“It’s made me a better person,” Sokoloski said. “Small things in life don’t matter as much because I’m more focused on my goal of playing at OSU.”