THOUSAND OAKS — Having signed early with five-time national champion Arizona, Erika Hanson's personal goals heading into her senior softball season at Thousand Oaks High were simple: Have fun and continue to improve.
Having fun was easy enough, but how do you improve on a junior season that netted 40 hits and a .374 batting average against tough competition?
Apparently, hard work will do the trick.
"The one thing about Erika is she's a hard worker and she'll do a lot of things on her own to improve," Coach Gary Walin said.
Hanson, a left-handed first baseman, achieved her goals. She set a school record with a .457 batting average and tied another with 43 hits.
Those records were previously owned by Jamie Heggen and Amy Chellevold, respectively, each of whom went on to become All-Americans at Arizona.
Hanson, The Times Ventura County player of the year, is following in their footsteps to Tucson, where more accolades are likely to follow.
"She has a tremendous coach [at Arizona] and she'll only get better," Walin said.
Walin, who in four seasons is 82-34-1 with Hanson, knows that players like her--talented, dedicated team players who love to play--are a gift.
"Can I keep her for four more [years]?" Walin cracked.
Hanson, a four-year starter, continually improved since making the team as a freshman, each year pounding out more hits.
In four seasons, the 5-foot-6 slap-hitter with excellent speed batted .349, had 125 hits and scored 62 runs despite playing in one of the Southern Section's toughest leagues.
Hanson, an amiable athlete who also excels in soccer, was as popular with opponents as she was with her own team. After--and even during--Marmonte League games, Hanson could often be found talking and laughing with opponents, many of whom she became acquainted with during summer competition.
But what made Hanson's senior year most special was playing with her sister Vanessa, a sophomore outfielder in her first year on the varsity.
"I've had so much fun playing with my sister," Hanson said. "She's my best friend."