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Oli's bound to get her homers

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They can walk her, pitch around her, refuse to play ball when she's at the plate, but if remaining foes don't -- bank on it -- in the next 10 games, Oli Keohohou will break her single season home-run mark of 21 with ease.

The only way it doesn't happen is if every pitcher the BYU junior faces rolls her grounders. She doesn't have a hockey stick or a nine-iron.

Coach Gordon Eakin put Keohohou as leadoff batter in the lineup to penalize the no-pitch strategy. Two Hawaiian freshmen sluggers, Ashlyn Russell and Ianeta Lei, have made opponents pay who walk the mighty Oli.

"It's boring," Keohohou describes the walks she gets at bat. "It's just boring because I can't help my team."

Pitch if you dare. Oli's gonna get her homers.

What makes her so good?

She's all business. Call her cell phone and her pickup message is direct: "Hi, Oli. Leave it."

Can't get more direct than that.

Eakin refuses to take basic credit at all for Keohohou. It's her DNA.

"I think she was born with a lot of what she has," Eakin said. "She's definitely a natural."

Oli makes her final appearance of the season in Provo this weekend during a scheduled four-game series with Colorado State and New Mexico. She'll have two games at Southern Utah and another pair against the Utes in Salt Lake City before the MWC championships in San Diego May 6-11.

Eakin has been around Major League baseball players -- the best. He has a great point of reference of what it takes to be a hitter.

"She has the greatest hand speed I've ever seen, and I've played professionally. I'd match that hand speed with any male I've seen at the plate.

"She can hang back and generate an incredible bat speed. That type of hitting just doesn't come along. She was born with it -- and she's had some good coaching over the years to help, but it's basically all her."

What makes Oli good is not just bat talent but her mind and emotional matrix on the field. She is fearless, refuses to get intimidated and whether facing 0-2 or 2-0, she's riveted on making contact for a hit, according to her coach.

"She's dangerous no matter the count. It's not something you teach."

Oli took up softball at age 12. There was nothing leading up to that, a spot on the Newberry Pumas. She just played.

This week Oli earned her sixth career MWC player of the week honor, second of this season after going 4 of 5 (.800) from the plate in league games.

A native of Newbury Park, Calif., Keohohou collected her 18th home run of the year last week, tying her mark from a year ago. As a freshman, she hit 21 home runs. She ranks in the top 10 nationally in batting average (10th), home runs (No. 2) and runs batted in (10th). She has a 1.127 slugging percentage.

As of this past week, Oli was three homers behind NCAA leader Lovie Jung of Arizona for the national home run title. The NCAA career mark is 85 set by UCLA's Stacey Nuveman last year, which places the Cougar slugger within range if she knocked out 28 more.

On Wednesday, Oli discounted any hype over her numbers or ability. I may have left a message on her voice mail, but she didn't bother to call back. I had to track her down before practice outside Larry H. Miller's training room.

"Oh, you are the one who left the message," she said.

"Yeah (and you didn't exactly call back), I answered.

Keohohou appears to let accomplishments just go by the wayside.

"I think I've just been lucky, nothing more than that. I play alongside a lot of great athletes with raw talent. I've just got lucky along the way."

Some luck. Go around campus and ask people who've seen Oli swing a bat and their words are all similar. Stuff like "amazing" and "incredible." Anything but boring.

Here's to something around the corners.Swing away, Oli.