IRVINE — When Woodbridge needs somebody to ignite the offense, sophomore center fielder Alison Johnsen usually supplies the spark.
The Warriors (29-4) will be relying heavily on the fleet-footed Johnsen to instigate something when they meet Saugus (26-3) in the finals of the Southern Section 3-A softball playoffs at 5 p.m. today at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.
"We look to her to ignite our offense," Warrior Coach Alan Dugard said. "People see her get on base and think they've got to play better because of it."
Johnsen realizes she is playing a key role in today's showdown.
"I'm a little bit nervous," Johnsen said. "But I'm confident our team can pull it off. We really work together and seldom have fights. If we play to our potential, we should pull it off."
Much of Woodbridge's chances will hinge on the speedy Johnsen and her ability to get on base. Not only is she the team's best hitter with a .429 batting average, she is the team's leading base stealer and No. 5 in the county with 41 steals this season, despite missing 11 games with a hamstring injury.
"My role is to do the best I can to get on base," Johnsen said. "I help the team to win by stealing as many bases as I can and not making any stupid plays. Our team is really good. If I get on, they can hit me in."
Johnsen remembers the Warriors' first encounter with Saugus this season.
"We lost to Saugus in the Laguna Hills tournament," she said. "We just didn't take them seriously at all. We didn't known what to expect and didn't play our best. They were fired up from the beginning."
Johnsen, a sophomore, is completing her second full season of varsity competition. Last year she led the Warriors with 32 stolen bases.
Johnsen credits her parents for her athletic ability and orienting her toward sports.
"I've been playing softball since I was 8 years old," she said. "My dad (Greg Johnsen) got me involved in sports. He was a cross-country runner (at Ventura College), and I was his project right from the beginning. He started developing me and has been my coach all along. He backs me up in every decision I make. My mom was also athletic. She played basketball in college at John Brown University (Siloam Springs, Ark.)."
Johnsen is grateful her parents pointed her toward the softball field.
"Softball is where my friends are, and hopefully, it will help me make it to college," she said. "It keeps me in shape and keeps my grades up because I have to maintain a certain grade-point average to stay eligible. I meet a lot of nice people and get to go to different places."
Despite her offensive contributions, Johnsen credits a defensive play she made in center field for igniting the Warriors in the playoffs.
"My biggest play of the season was in the second round of the playoffs against Walnut," Johnsen said. "Their batter hit the ball past second base to me in center field. I got the ball and threw the batter out at first base. We'd been working on that play all season. Finally, it happened and it pulled the team together."
Dugard lauds Johnsen's defensive play in center.
"I've coached softball on all different levels for a long time, but there has never been a center fielder like her anyplace," Dugard said. "She makes everything look easy and is a consummate fielder. She's only made one error in two years. If the ball's in her area, she's going to get it."
But Johnsen's contribution to the Warriors goes beyond her play on the field, according to Dugard.
"Alison is a dynamic, young personality," he said. "Not only is she a good player, but an excellent citizen. Everybody gets along with Alison. She's a team player with great talent and she exudes that talent to others.
"When she pulled a hamstring early in the season in the first game of a doubleheader, the team went into the tank," Dugard recalled. "But she came to every practice and encouraged others to pick up the slack, and they did."
Southern Section Softball: Today's 3-A Final
At Mayfair Park, Lakewood, 5 p.m.
WOODBRIDGE (29-4) SAUGUS (26-3) Name Pos. Avg. Name Pos. Avg. Alison Johnsen CF .500 Kerri Volpe RF .442 Anne Marie Risquez C .223 Kim O'Leary 2B .360 Alison Ward P .316 Corinne Ochoa 1B .348 Jessica Montgomery 1B .309 Carrie Brown C .342 Debbie Nasitka SS .364 Kelli Kranz SS .280 Deanna Black 3B .317 Christina Schlender DH .206 Keri Byrd LF .236 Kerry Coudry P .345 Lisa Weaver DH .328 Kim Weir 3B .196 Teresa Dunn RF .236 Jeanine Giordano CF .177 Name Pos. W-L Name Pos. W-L Alison Ward P 18-2 Kerry Coudry P 22-3
IF WOODBRIDGE IS GOING TO WIN: