One of four seniors on this year's New Mexico State softball team, left fielder Amber Olive is also a standout away from the field.
Her 2013 numbers speak loudly: A team-high 68 hits, a .405 batting average, 15 stolen bases and 32 runs scored. With a 13-2 conference record, the Aggies sit atop the WAC standings, a game ahead of second-place San Jose State.
But Olive's also made her mark away from the diamond: An integral member of a softball program that leads all Aggie sports in community service hours, a 3.886 Grade Point Average as a double-major student in communication studies and psychology, and named Outstanding Scholar Athlete during the Aggies 2013 Spring Commencement.
Just prior to NMSU's final home series of the 2013 season, we sat down and spoke with the Simi Valley, Calf. native about her Aggie career's past, present and future. For Aggie softball senior capsules, click here.
Sun-News: Talk about hitting leadoff and the responsibility that comes with that particular spot?
Amber Olive: "Your job is to get on any way you can. There's a lot of emphasis put on that. There's a lot of pressure sometimes because you start the engine. You'll get the most at bats in the lineup, so you have the most opportunities to keep the fire going."
SN: Is leadoff the most important spot in a softball batting order?
AO: "In softball, because of how short our game is, every spot has it's own job and every job is very important. They're all different. Leadoff just happens to be that you get to start the game and continue to make things happen. When they turn the lineup over, your role changes. .... when you have runners on base, your job does change to more of a get on base and try to get a run in. I think every spot in the lineup has it's own job. Just because of the duration of our game and how fast things happen, every spot is key."
SN: It's a young team this year. What's it like being a senior and bringing along younger teammates?
AO: "As a senior, you can see and feel the experience .... What you see on some of the other kid's faces that haven't been in that spot is, they don't know what's going to happen. With us (the four Aggie seniors), it's knowing that's part of the game and being able to really just (have) trust in yourself. (The underclassmen) have the talent. .... We can see their talent. They just don't know it yet. That's the fun part, it's also kind of frustrating, when they get scared and you're like 'you can do this.'"
SN: Do you consider it part of your job? To help bring those young players along?
AO: "Definitely. Definitely. And once they get old enough to see it, they're going to bring it to their younger classmen too. I guess the best part of my job is, when they have Emma (Adams) in the nine spot, her being a freshman, and being able to calm her down in the box, being in the on-deck circle, talking to her. And her just producing like crazy."
SN: How loose is the team right now? Is there pressure to seal the deal in conference?
AO: "The big part about this team is, we haven't really focused on what's beyond the next game. I think that's really helped us a lot, because that's kept us off the radar and really just focused in on one game at a time. I don't think there's really any pressure other than going into this next game and really getting ready and prepared for this next game. We're not really loose, we're not really stressed, we're just kind of us."
SN: Two years ago you had a very good team that reached the NCAA Tournament. Does this year's team have the potential to not just accomplish that, but also take the next step forward and advance in the postseason?
AO: "Yes .... If I could put myself outside of this team, they definitely have the talent. .... The girls, especially the sophomore class and the freshman class coming up .... If they can just even tap into a little bit of what they have right now, we're going to go a long way."
SN: The 2011 team was very talented, a power-hitting team. This year's club is balanced, a little more station-to-station, a little more small ball. What's it been like playing on two different teams that have both found success?
AO: "I think the 2011 team that we were a part of had a really tight-nit group that was based on power. Two slap hitters at the top of the lineup that could both mash as well. The one thing with them was they all worked together in their own way. We all got to kind of watch them take lead and their leadership role to a (NCAA) regional position. With this team, we all kind of utilize the strengths of each other, which is a lot different than two years prior, where we all kind of just relied on the long ball and people hitting that home run when we needed it. This time, we need people to get on base. We draw on the strengths of each other to get the job done. Which is really good. You need that in a team."
SN: Two former Aggie outfielders - Tiare Jennings and Kandis Jones - were very good here when you were a younger player. Did you learn anything in particular from them?
AO: "They kind of set the foundation of what our outfield lives up to today. Pretty much, no ball drops. If it comes into our field, they're done. We got that from Tiarre, her kind of cockiness. No one's better than us on this field. We kind of set the tone out there. With Kandis, she was just kind of the silent but deadly type. We learned a lot from her, just kind of being stealth."
SN: You've put a major emphasis on your academics and community work during your time here. Talk about being heavily involved in those areas.
AO: "Academics is a given. This is what we're here for, it's what's going to get us into the real world. My stance on academics is, the material you're learning is not to pass or fail, you're supposed to learn it. No teacher's making a test, just for you to fail. None of my teachers have .... Community service, it's a great way to get our name out there, but also to give back. .... That's just an awesome experience. Building those connections and ties - I got to run community service for our team this year, it was just priceless. A lot of people willing to work with our team because we've come out and worked in support of them, and what they wanted to do. I think it kind of raises the bar for athletics here, what we do in softball and how involved we are in the community. It really sheds a positive light on us."
SN: What are your plans after NMSU?
AO: "Well, I heard my mom and dad miss me so I'm going to go back out there for a little bit. Hang out with my mom and dad, and grandparents."
Who: Seattle (19-24 overall, 7-8 in the WAC) at NMSU (32-15 overall, 13-2 in the WAC)
What: WAC softball series; senior weekend
Where: NMSU Softball Complex
When: Friday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m., while a Saturday doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
If you can't make it: Friday's game can be heard on radio at KSNM-AM 570. Saturday's opener will be televised on AggieVision.