Andersen excels as leader on and off field

Carter Schmidt, Sports Reporter

Good things come to those who work hard. At least that is the case for Julia Andersen, a senior softball player at SDSU.

The Papillion, Nebraska native finished with a .397 batting average and .978 fielding percentage last season and looks to capitalize on that success this season.

Andersen became a Jackrabbit after making the drive to Brookings and visiting campus.

“(South Dakota State) wasn’t really too big or too small. It was a Division I college and I’ve always wanted to go Division I ever since I was little and it’s not too far from home, but it’s not too close to home either.” Andersen said.

She was a four-time varsity letter winner in high school and posted a 2.32 ERA with 116 strikeouts as a senior captain. She also hit .534 as a junior with a .670 slugging percentage and no strikeouts, and .477 with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage as a senior.

Andersen has seen the Jackrabbit program improve over her years on the team. In her first year, the Jackrabbits placed fifth in the Summit League. Last year, the Jackrabbits placed second.

Head softball coach Krista Wood said, who is in her fifth year of coaching at SDSU, said Andersen and her fellow teammates have created a culture of leadership and integrity in the softball program.

“This senior class has been a big part of turning this program around into a winning program,” she said. “She is, and the rest of the seniors are, a huge part of it. Taking a chance and coming here, the biggest thing was changing the culture.”

Andersen expected it would be her class to turn the program around, considering they were Wood’s first recruiting class.

“I feel like we had a big role to take on, and now as seniors you can tell,” she said. “I think all the seniors do a really good job of being leaders and everything, and I hope they carry that on forever.”

Andersen finished last season starting in all 55 games, splitting time between center and right field. She committed only two errors for a .978 fielding percentage, converting 88 putouts and two assists. In the outfield this season, she has recorded 23 catches and 22 putouts so far.

“She’s solid out there,” Wood said. “You want her out there because she’s got a great arm. She could play any outfield position we put her in and that’s what’s nice.”

Not only does Andersen succeed in the outfield, but she has excelled at the plate as well. She put together a .397 average last season and is averaging .318 with 23 RBIs so far this season.

Last season, she tied the school’s single-season hits (77) and doubles (19) records and added three triples and four home runs. She drove in 38 runners and scored 51 runs, passing the previous single-season runs mark to sit second behind teammate Abbey Murphy. Andersen tallied 23 multi-hit games, including nine three-hit performances and 10 multi-RBI games.

Wood said confidence is key when at the plate, and it’s something she expects from Andersen.

“She is one of those kids you want up at the plate,” she said. “When the bases are loaded or when you need a hit in the top of the seventh, or the bottom of the seventh, she is pretty clutch.”

Andersen also picked up 19 walks to finish with a .588 slugging and .453 on-base percentage.

According to Wood, she has been successful because of the hard work and extra time she has put in outside of practice.

“She’s [Andersen] bought into our program and our culture and is just a great leader,” Wood said. “I truly believe that good things happen to those who work hard, and I think she is one of those.”

Fellow teammate Ali Herdliska, a senior says Andersen is exactly the type of player you would want on your team.

“Julia [Andersen] is the most ideal teammate,” she said. “You couldn’t tell if she was 0-for-3 or 3-for-3 with three home runs. She always has the same mentality and smile on her face and, if you ever get down, Julia is the one you want to turn to because she’ll find a way to make you laugh or giggle about it and it’s really nice having her there.”

Andersen said she can’t believe her time is almost up at SDSU, but she’ll take advantage of what’s left of the season and try to accomplish more than she ever has before.  

“In the moment, it doesn’t seem like it’s going very fast, especially with practices and everything, but then looking back, it’s like wow, we’re almost done,” Andersen said. “It’s really sad thinking back to all the different teammates that have already graduated and just all the memories and experiences we have. It’s almost over, so I think we’re all just trying to cherish what we have left of it.”

Wood will miss having Andersen and this year’s seniors on her roster next year.

“I mean, any time we have seniors that are some of the top-hitting in the league or in your program, you’re going to miss that mentality,” she said. “You’re going to miss that stability in your lineup. She started hitting early in her years down in the lineup and she’s worked her way to the top of our lineup. She’s just an aggressive hitter with good confidence and a good eye.”

Upon graduation in May, Andersen, an advertising major, has an internship in Salt Lake City and hopes to land a job at that same company. Leaving the softball program at SDSU will be hard for her and the team, but Wood hopes Andersen’s legacy lives on.

“I just want to leave a really good impression. I want people to look back at me and be like, ‘Oh she was a really good teammate, a good leader and was always positive,’” Andersen said. “Being a good player is cool too, but I feel like the impression people remember about you is the most important thing to me.”