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ARLINGTON, Texas -- After playing in 17 games as UTA's third catcher as a freshman, Will Olson was poised to take the next step as a sophomore in 2016.
Tommy John Surgery derailed those hopes and postponed Olson's desire for a breakout season by a year.
While working diligently on rehab and recovery, Olson was forced to sit in the dugout and watch as the Mavericks had one healthy backstop to share the 56-game workload.
Then a junior, Brady Cox made 52 of UTA's starts behind the plate while Olson recovered, often times fighting through illness and injury to done the tools of ignorance. Olson soaked up Cox's leadership and toughness and brought a fiery mentality to his redshirt sophomore year.
That breakout sophomore campaign came with a flourish in 2017, as the former Sherman High School star, emerged as UTA's everyday catcher and a middle-of-the-order run producer. With Cox's defensive abilities shoring up third base, Olson made 39 of 55 starts behind the dish.
He finished with a .322 average (56-for-174) with nine doubles, two homers and 28 RBI. He slugged .408 and tied for the team lead with a .439 on-base percentage. Olson drew 27 walks and struck out just 24 times.
In league action, Olson hit .327 with 23 RBI and a .440 on-base percentage. Defensively, heshined, allowing only 19 steals, throwing out eight would-be base stealers.
"Will Olson had a great 2017 and is poised to be a great leader for us in 2018," UTA Head Coach Darin Thomas said. "He made nearly all of our catching starts last year and showed great toughness and abilities to produce offensively and defensively. His vocal presence and leadership is crucial towards the growth of our pitching staff. We are excited to have Will behind the plate again in 2018."
After a short stint in summer ball following the season, Olson had a foot injury that forced him to miss the fall practice season.
"He's going to be well rested and ornery and ready to get out there," Thomas said. "He's good to go."
Olson, despite missing the fall practice season, was still able to learn and mesh with the newcomers to the pitching staff and has returned to full strength in the preseason. He has worked with fellow catchers Justin Marino and Jakob Nunez to form a strong trio of options behind the plate.
"Every year you are going to have new people," Olson said. "That is what the fall and preseason is for. Getting to know the guys and learning what they have and what stuff they trust. I really like the guys we brought in, we have some really good arms coming in that can really be good."
Olson, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound left-handed hitter, sees talents in the newcomers on the pitching staff and can see them grabbing key roles in the spring.
"David Moffat, Carlos Tavera, those guys came in with a good mindset and are ready to go," Olson said. "Something of a mindset you don't usually see with freshmen. Their presence on the mound is very confident. It doesn't matter who is in the box, they are going to get you out. That is really cool to see that confidence as an 18, 19-year old, playing with 21, 22-year olds. We have Andrew Gross, Tristan Tom out the pen and even the guys returning. I think this is the best staff we've had since I've been here. I'm excited to catch them and see them work."
A vocal presence on the field and in the dugout, Olson's leadership will take center stage in 2018 as a fourth-year junior in a key role.
"From my point of view I feel like we have as much chemistry as we've ever had here," Olson said. "We really click with the new guys and that is a big thing in baseball. You can't go out there as individuals you have to operate as a team. We are looking really good and are ready to get going."
"It is intangible to have a guy like Will behind the plate," UTA returning all-conference pitcher Trae Patterson said. "You can see freshmen out there get tentative, they may not trust a pitch as well. Will likes to yell, we all know it and that helps them a lot. That is comforting for me because I'm a guy that likes to shake but with Will back there I know that he believes in what he is calling. It is a big trust factor to have a guy like Will back there. He was able to learn from Brady and that have helped him develop as well."
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