Whether Kaitlin Okimoto was toiling at shortstop or in the batter’s box hitting line drives, the senior was invariably in the middle of helping her team win.
Okimoto’s over-the-top talent was never more obvious than during this past season when the Burroughs High softball team reached the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals.
A four-year varsity starter and one of the team leaders, Okimoto was a key clog that helped the Indians make the postseason every year.
Okimoto finished her highly-decorated career batting .444 with 106 runs batted in, 10 homers, 31 doubles, 13 triples with 104 runs scored and a .487 on-base percentage.
This current run and quarterfinal match versus Norwalk was something truly special and unforgettable.
“During the ninth inning, the second extra inning, I hit a home run over the fence to go up by one run,” Okimoto said. “After that, the team started to rally and we went up by four to win the game.”
Yet it was more than that. “The best part was that straight after the game the seniors headed to our graduation ceremony where we wore our jerseys under our robes,” Okimoto said.
Of course, the goal each year was to win the Pacific League title. “We have set many goals over the years, but we were most excited about winning league two years in a row,” said Okimoto, who batted .429 this season with eight home runs, 30 RBIs, 11 doubles, four triples with 30 runs scored and a .505 on-base percentage. “Making the playoffs every year and getting to the semifinals. That made us the first Burroughs softball team to do so.”
The Indians lost to the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, Grand Terrace 7-0 in the semifinals, and finished the year with a 24-5 mark.
Burroughs also swept through the league with a 14-0 record and went 13-1 the previous season.
Despite playing in 106 high school games, there were a few that stood out for Okimoto, who will attend Brown University as a business major and will also play softball.
“My freshman year we played a pre-season game at La Canada and I got up and hit a home run over the fence,” Okimoto recalled. “That was my first high school home run.”
Okimoto went on: “The second game I remember the most was the second game, my junior year, against Burbank High School. I got a double play and I hit well. Our team fought back and finally pushed a run past them to end their winning streak. We tied them for the Pacific League championship, the first one I had in my high school career.”
Okimoto, who closed out her junior campaign with a .480 batting average, 21 RBIs and 21 runs tallied with eight doubles, said this season will be looked back upon fondly.
“We leave behind the memory of a team that came together and gave it their all for the game and each other,” she said.
Okimoto said while one of the leaders, she knew it was a team effort that set this squad apart.
“My biggest asset on the field was knowing my teammates always had my back,” she pointed out. “I knew that if I made an error or wasn’t playing well that they would pick me up. Every single girl on that team played for each other which made playing fun and when you’re having fun on the field, you are hard to beat.”
Okimoto, a gifted athlete who also plays travel ball for the ACES (Ashley Creamer Elite Softball), said she tried her hand at another sport and liked it.
“When I was a freshman I actually played varsity basketball,” she said, “but sophomore year I made the difficult decision to focus on softball, so I quit basketball. I have always known that softball was my passion and I knew that in order to excel I had to commit to it.”
Okimoto said playing at Burroughs was a dream come true, and it was because of her fellow players, who were always supportive.
“My teammates would say that I am determined, hardworking and a leader on and off the field,” she said.
Okimoto draws inspiration from her grandfather, Ralph Judkins. “I look up to my grandpa,” she said. “He has accomplished so many things in his life and has worked hard for everything he has. He can always make me laugh with his one-liners. He has also always supported me in what I choose to pursue.”