ASU softball’s Alix Johnson breaking out of slump

Junior outfielder Alix Johnson connects on a pitch during the Kajikawa Classic. Johnson struggled to hit at the start of the season but is starting to get back on track. (Samuel Rosebaum)

Junior outfielder Alix Johnson connects on a pitch during the Kajikawa Classic. Johnson struggled to hit at the start of the season but is starting to get back on track. (Samuel Rosebaum)

Junior outfielder Alix Johnson had a rough start to the season offensively.

Last season Johnson was an All-American with a .395 average and 13 home runs. In Johnson’s first 30 at bats in 2013, she had three hits.

But things are turning around. In her past eight at-bats, Johnson has had four hits, including a home run.

She started the season hitting leadoff. Johnson was then moved into the second spot when she continued to struggle.

However, coach Clint Myers put Johnson back into the top of the order, showing confidence that she would turn it around.

“It felt really good,” Johnson said. “I felt a little more relaxed at the plate, which is definitely a good thing.”

When Johnson was hitting second, leadoff hitter and junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle was walked intentionally twice to get to Johnson. In those at-bats, Johnson struck out and reached on an error.

The intentional walks ignited a spark in Johnson.

“It’s not the first time it happened to me,” Johnson said. “It puts a little fire in my belly.”

Johnson is showing signs of breaking out of the early-season slump. It’s not a matter of if she’ll hit, it’s when.

“I think some people sometimes forget Alix had a phenomenal year, and she was an All-American,” Myers said. “She’s going to be a main state for us all season long. She’s going to get it turned around. She’s going to get better. That’s kind of scary.”

 

Grounder flounders

ASU’s starting middle infielders have struggled fielding ground balls and choppers.

Shortstop Cheyenne Coyle and senior second baseman Sam Parlich made 11 combined errors in ASU’s first 12 games, mostly from bouncing balls.

Coyle made six, including three in one game. Parlich has five and also committed three errors in a single game.

Myers said Parlich will respond.

“She’s a senior,” Myers said. “She knows what she has to do. She’s just got to go out and play. I mean she is potentially the best second baseman in the country. I haven’t seen a woman with as good of hands around the bag as she does. She turns the double play at second base better than most men.”

Coyle has more than made up for defensive lapses with her bat.

She is hitting .469 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. But when asked about her season so far, Coyle immediately fouces on her defense, not her offensive success.

“Obviously, I’d like to get better on my defense,” Coyle said. “I have really high expectations for myself both defensively and offensively. If one’s not going well for me, I try to focus on the other, which my offense helped me out.”

 

Bringing the road home

ASU starts the season with 27 consecutive home games. The weather is pleasant this time of year in the Valley; why would the Sun Devils leave town?

Yet in the first 12 games of the season, ASU played six games as the designated home team and six more as the visiting team.

“We don’t travel, so it’s important that our pitchers be able to go out there and close the door in the seventh or the fifth or whatever inning it is,” Myers said.

“People are asking, ‘Why are you always visitors at home?’ If you don’t travel, you have to have that rehearsal time of experience of trying to score first, and keep them from scoring last.”

 

Reach the reporter at justin.janssen@asu.edu