Olivia Husted has seen no significant drop-off between her sophomore and junior softball seasons.
That’s an impressive feat in itself, seeing how the Jefferson pitcher and outfielder was playing for a small Class A team in the GISA a year ago against a fraction of the competition she faces on regular basis nowadays with the Lady Dragons.
“At first, it was kind of a difficult switch because I went to playing at a small school against teams that weren’t necessarily as good as schools with the heavy hitters — girls that will hit the ball over if I leave it over the plate,” said Husted, who played for Bethlehem Christian Academy in Winder last season. “Now, I also have a defense that I could trust, so I know that I give up a ground ball, they’ll be there right behind to prevent the runner from getting on or coming around to score.”
In her first year with Jefferson, Husted has become a dominant threat for the Lady Dragons both on the mound and at the plate. She most recently demonstrated her abilities in an 8-0 win over Rabun County last Tuesday, when she struck out seven hitters in five innings of work while going 3 for 4 with four RBIs.
For her efforts, Husted is The Times’ Girls Athlete of the Week.
“I had seven strikeouts, but was really helped me was that all of the ground balls that I gave up were easily fielded by my infield and my outfield,” Husted said. “I knew I would’ve given up hits if they weren’t there.”
Through her first 15 games in the GHSA, Husted has excelled in both her primary pitching role and Jefferson’s cleanup hitter. She sports a 1.80 ERA and a batting average well over .500.
The Lady Dragons are reaping the benefits of her accomplishments. They’re 11-4 overall, and their 7-1 region record is keeping them in the hunt for the Region 8-AA title. They’re currently riding a season-best six-game winning streak and haven’t lost a game since Aug. 29.
“She’s played a role in it for sure,” Jefferson coach Zach Black said. “All the girls are doing a great job. They’re playing great and they’re really working hard in practice each day to get better. I think we’re growing closer as a team, and I think that’s starting to help a little bit.”
As a sophomore at Bethlehem Christian Academy, Husted served in a similar role as the team’s ace, but on a much smaller scale of competition. Playing in the smallest classification of what is already an athletic association filled with lower-enrollment private schools, she wasn’t exposed to the kind of talent she now faces every day at Jefferson.
To make up for the missed opportunities in the high school games, she joined the Georgia Academy Power club team out of Peachtree City. Over the summer, she played games in California, Pennsylvania, Chicago and Orlando.
“It pretty much takes up the entire year,” Husted said. “We play tournaments all over Georgia and out of state.”
The experience has caught her up to speed with the GHSA’s level of play, and she’s showing it with more than just her numbers.
Black said her intense mentality on the mound has given her the ability to simply overwhelm hitters with power, while keeping them on their heels with crafty off-speed pitches.
“I think she does a good job of mixing her pitches, which is also a credit to our pitching coach for working on those things,” Black said. “She does a good job of going right after hitters, and she has the mentality on the mound that she’s not going to hold back.”
Husted has attended several camps at various universities, which has increased her recruiting value with another year of varsity softball left before she graduates in 2015. Her current top choice is Mercer University, with interest in Berry College as well.