WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 20, 2010, 11:08 AM

True freshman pitcher leads the team

Fargo, ND (WDAY Sports) - It's rare when a true freshman excels in college sports and Bison pitcher Whitney Johnson is certainly a rarity. In fact, she should still be in high school.

“We’ve always thought she has a huge upside to everything.”

So much so, that when Darren Mueller recruited Whitney Johnson. He broached the subject of her joining NDSU after her junior year of high school.

Gail Johnson: “Whitney wanted to do it. She really pushed for it. We supported her decision. She's always been mature, made good decisions. That's one of the reasons we let her go to school early.”

So Johnson graduated high school after her junior year and enrolled at NDSU as a 17-year old. Oh yeah, and she was also asked to be the main pitcher on a division one softball team as a 17-year old freshman.

Laurel Pipken: “When you're out on the field, you don't think it's a freshman, but when you look and see her energy and it's like this little 17, now 18-year old is really leading this team.”

While Johnson didn't dominate her first year in college like she did in high school, she still found success and got better as the year went on. She's currently 26-and-16 and became just the 2nd Bison pitcher ever to record more than 300 strikeouts in a season. Johnson was also named the MVP of the Summit League tournament. Did I mention she's a freshman who should still be in high school?

Whitney Johnson: “There were no regrets. I knew it wouldn't be easy, ups and downs. We came together as a team. I am very happy.”

Mueller: “The maturity she's shown, I’m just proud of her and glad for the honors she's received.”

Tomorrow, Johnson receives the honor, if you can call it that, of starting against the top ranked softball team in the country. But she knows her older teammates have all got her back.

Laurel: “Whit has grown up so much and stepped it up so much. It's amazing what she's gone through. “

The Bison hitters will have their hands full facing the best pitcher in the country, Danielle Lawrie and Washington.