The last bat of Justin Olson’s high school career was not exactly what he expected.
For one, it was a bunt. Not one of those powerful home runs he’s become known for.
And secondly, it ended far too soon.
For much of the season, Olson and the Pine Creek baseball team were favored to make a run in the 5A state tournament, but misfortune struck on the first day of postseason play.
“We were playing ThunderRidge in districts. I was hitting and I tried to swing at a pitch and the next thing I knew I felt my shoulder pop out of place, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is not going to be good,’” Olson said. “It was an 0-2 count with two outs and the bases were loaded. I knew I couldn’t swing, so I laid down a bunt for a base hit.
“And that was my last high school hit ever. But I got the RBI so I guess it worked,” Olson joked.
Pine Creek went on to win the region with a 13-3 win over ThunderRidge, but Olson’s season was done thanks to a torn right labrum.
A few games later, Pine Creek’s run in the state championship ended in a one-run loss.
But despite falling short of the elusive state championship, Olson’s senior year was one for the books.
His 14 home runs were the best in the state and ranked him No. 13 nationally, and his slugging percentage of 1.423 was bested by just four other players in the country. His strength at the plate earned him the Gazette Preps 2018 Baseball Peak Performer of the Year honor.
But it wasn’t always fireworks at the plate for Olson. He started his freshman year as “the small kid” who just played his role. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that he broke through to hit nine home runs.
“That’s when everything just started going into place,” said Olson, who missed much of his junior year due to mono. “Senior year really kicked off and that was my season to have fun and go do it all.”
In addition to his success at the plate, Olson also had a .966 fielding percentage with just one error, and had a 1.77 ERA and 46 strikeouts - thanks in part to his favorite pitch.
“I love throwing knuckleballs,” Olson said. “Since I was seven I would always just practice throwing it and it just kind of came to me. Then I just started messing around and throwing knuckleballs to kids and once I threw it in a game I was like, ‘Woah, this actually kind of works.’”
Olson, a Kentucky baseball signee, was also announced as the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball.
“From the beginning I wanted to strive for (Gatorade Player of the Year) and to end my career on a good note. I wanted to lead this team, and I think we accomplished everything we wanted to other than winning state.”