FAIRBORN — The debut season might not have gone the way Wright State softball’s utility player Raidyn Johnson had anticipated, but she has rallied to become a versatile piece of the Raider lineup.
A utility player in softball can be playing a multitude of positions. Johnson’s place of residence over the years has been just as varied.
Her father, Gregory, was in the Air Force when she was growing up so Johnson lived in many different places. She was born in England before moving to New Jersey about a year and a half later. The family would then spent stints of time in Germany, New Jersey again, Hawaii and then Ohio.
“I’ve been able to see so many places and cultures and have many perspectives on life in general,” she said. “I think it’s really shaped me as a person, and has made me more accepting.”
With change being nothing new to her, Johnson became familiar with her surroundings at WSU rather quickly. She says that graduating early from Beavercreek High School and enrolling last spring semester helped pave the way for her.
“It was kind of tough at first, getting adapted to the new lifestyle and used to the team, but I don’t regret anything,” Johnson said. “It was a really good experience for me to develop that work ethic.”
When her first season was set to begin, the situation could probably be described as a daydream as it could for many freshman collegiate athletes. It might have been a nightmare initially, however.
In 20 plate appearances last season Johnson was unable to record a hit. Freshman jitters are often to be expected though. In the off season, a renewed confidence was probably all she would need to rebound, but that took a blow after toe surgery in August followed by wearing a boot through fall conditioning.
Johnson admits, at this point, she was wavering and wondering if she was made out for Division I softball. She was also hungry to comeback.
“I was determined to do anything I could to just get better and show coach that I was willing to do anything to be in the lineup,” Johnson said.
The thick skin Johnson demonstrated, and the absence of entitlement during this process, was impressive to Wright State head coach Laura Matthews.
“I think we learn the most about teammates and their character when they aren’t playing all the time,” Matthews said. “Raidyn never complained, pointed fingers or acted as anything other than supportive, even when her playing time was limited. Most players who aren’t playing a lot start to feel sorry for themselves, but she kept working every day.
“I don’t think there’s anyone on the team who people are happier for when they’re successful than Raidyn. To me, that’s very telling.”
For Johnson, having Matthews return the favor and not give up on her has been a reason for her calm in the face of the setbacks.
“I think coach Mathews is an amazing person and wants the best for everyone on the team,” Johnson said. “She always has made me feel like I was a part of the team culture, even if I was out with an injury, and she always has believed in me as a player and as a person, especially. I feel like I can always go to her with anything I need to.”
In her 10th at bat of 2019 against Western Kentucky on March 10, Johnson got her first hit as a Raider to left center and took second base on the throw while playing catcher. When she registered her third career hit late in March against Detroit Mercy, she was ready to open up the floodgates with her bat.
Since then Johnson added 22 more hits, including two doubles, three home runs, 17 RBI and eight multi-hit games.
“I’m so proud of Raidyn and how hard she has worked offensively and defensively. She has made her swing much more versatile and is able to hit many types of pitchers,” Matthews said. “The greatest improvement she has made is in her mental approach. She’s developed much more confidence and has enabled herself to slow down the game and truly lives one pitch at a time now.”
Off the field, Johnson is a middle childhood education major and aspires to teach social studies or math.
It was a rocky start for WSU early in Horizon League play after staring 3-10 in conference games. Starting with a 14-6 win over Youngstown State, the Raiders have gone 5-2 in those games and hold the sixth and final spot in the league tournament that begins May 8.
The adverse start and turnaround is textbook for Johnson already.
“I think, in those low moments, we really stuck together as a team and just wanted to stay together to improve together,” Johnson said. “We learned from those experiences and are carrying them forward with us, because we know if we can get through those tough moments, we can reach the stars honestly.”
Story by Alan Hieber, WSU Communications. (wsuraiders.com)