With the way second baseman Taylor Okada performed in Maryland softball’s 10-9 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday — going 4-for-5 at the plate — people may have never known that Okada came into the season less than one month after being cleared by a doctor.
Last March, Okada was batting .426 with 15 RBIs before suffering a knee injury in a game against Bryant. She missed the remainder of the season to have surgery, and then she worked through rehabilitation. Okada said that last year, as a freshman, it was hard not being able to finish the remainder of the campaign with her teammates.
Now that she’s back, however, Okada is picking up where she left off.
“It wasn’t easy being around the girls, not being how I wanted it to be,” Okada said. “But I’m glad to be back with the girls and making an impact on the softball program.”
Though the Terps started out with a rocky 1-7 record, they were able to pull out a win in their most recent game over the Panthers. Okada said the team was resilient and hopes that in future games, that resilience will reflect in the win column.
“This team has potential to surprise the Big Ten,” Okada said. “Up to this point, we haven’t shown it yet. But we definitely have the potential to do good things.”
Okada will likely be a big part of that success.
Okada hit three RBIs on Sunday, and she leads the squad with a .444 batting average overall. She’s started the season well, showing her solid skillset and leaving little indication that she was only cleared for play on Jan. 17.
The sophomore feels that being protective of her knee is definitely something she’ll have to think about on the field this season.
“Being so fresh off from being cleared, I’m still cautious,” Okada said. “But everyday I’m getting close to being able to trust it and not think about it when I’m playing.”
It’s a slower process in the field compared to the plate.
“She’s probably still not 100 percent defensively, but by God, offensively she looks just as good as she could have ever looked before,” coach Mark Montgomery said on Spring Sports Media Day. “She’s hitting the ball great. Defensively, she’s just gaining more and more trust in probably her lateral movement.”
Though others might be worried about Okada’s injury, she said she feels well-prepared and thinks she’ll become more and more comfortable as she gets more reps in between games and practices throughout the season.
Okada made it clear she doesn’t want to dwell on her injury and that she is ready to take a step forward. This season, she wants to make it a goal to just “enjoy the moment” — she’s learned that it goes by fast.
“Not that many people get the opportunity to play a Division I sport,” Okada said.