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ECU’s Johnson a big hit

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Jessica Johnson never gets cheated at the plate.
The East Carolina University sophomore has put on a power display for the Pirates, putting together one of the best seasons in school history. Her 14 home runs lead Conference USA. Johnson has also driven in 46 runs, third best in the conference, and she’s hitting at a lofty .352 clip.
Johnson’s 14 dingers are tied for third all-time in a single season by an ECU softball player. Isonette Polonius holds the record with 18 homers in 1999. Polonius smacked 15 in 1998.
Johnson’s home run total is tied for third with Kate Manuse (2005).
Johnson needs three more RBIs to move into the Top 10 on ECU’s all-time list.
A decorated athlete out of Mater Dei High School in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Johnson led the Pirates with 29 RBIs her freshman season. She hit three home runs, but struggled with her batting average a bit, hitting .207.
ECU coach Tracey Kee credits assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski with landing Johnson.
Johnson said she doesn’t swing for the fences every time she steps into the batter’s box. Instead, a quick bat helps the ball travel a great distance.
Johnson credits part of her offensive prowess to her father, Jim Johnson, who played professional baseball with the Minnesota Twins.
Johnson belted a pair of home runs in ECU’s 16-2 win over UTEP earlier this year.
Besides wielding a big stick, Johnson is also a solid first baseman. She has a .990 fielding percentage, making just three errors in 302 chances. Johnson committed just two errors and had a .996 fielding percentage as a freshman.
Johnson and the Pirates (35-18, 11-9 C-USA) will close out regular season play this weekend with a three-game series at Southern Miss. The Pirates need to win two games to secure second place in the conference, meaning a high seed for the C-USA Tournament, which will be held May 10-12 in Orlando.
Johnson wouldn’t mind moving up the home run chart, but she’s more interested in helping lead her team to a tournament championship.