SAGU reels in left-handed All-Stater
Britney Johnson signs with Lady Lions
Tahlequah Tiger racks up 74-19 career record
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The city of Tahlequah, Oklahoma has a rich history and culture and a list a famous people who call it their hometown.
Two of them have made a name for themselves with their arms; Bill Harrelson, a pitcher for the California Angels in the 1960’s, and Sonny Sixkiller, a pro quarterback in the 1970’s.
Now comes All-State pitcher, Britney Johnson, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to hurl a fast-pitch softball for Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
Her list of awards is large and her stats are sterling. One sportwriter described her accumulation of trophies as “hardware hoarding.”
SAGU’s third year program will welcome the decorated Johnson, who racked up a 74-19 record in three seasons at Tahlequah High School, members of Class 5A.
During her career, in which she also garnered All-State honors in slow-pitch, averaged 6.6 strikeouts per game.
In six semesters in Tahlequah (75 miles southeast of Tulsa), she took part in nearly 215 victories for the Lady Tigers. Both their fast-pitch and slow-pitch teams advanced to State in her three years
Her three seasons reached the softball pinnacle, contending with the final teams each year at Oklahoma City’s Hall of Fame Stadium - the site of the NCAA World Series each June.
“Britney enjoyed a fantastic high school career,” said SAGU Head Coach Tim Grant. “She was so influential (on campus) and equally successful on the field.”
“We are so blessed here at SAGU to have her enrolling as one of our student-athletes this fall. We are raising our expectations about being a very solid team and competing in the SAC next year,” he continued. “We know that Britney will help us in accomplishing that.”
Johnson moved from Salina, Kansas after her freshman year. She played at Salina's South HS, earning Second Team All-State as an outfielder for the Class 5A Cougars.
She was born in Lufkin, Texas, where she lived for 13 years prior to her family relocating to Salina.
Her sophomore season saw Johnson emerge with a bang! While the team went 38-5 and advanced to the state semi-finals, it was the left-hander who rose to prominence.
Utilizing an effective three-pitch arsenal, she steamrolled the competition to a 31-3 record while posting a 2.17 earned run average.
She supplied the exclamation mark on a team that turned heads.
Her junior campaign witnessed the Tigers cruise to a 35-9 ledger and another berth at the State tourney. Johnson went 24-9 and struck out 214 batters.
“Before she got here, we had never been to the state tournament in fast pitch,” Head Coach Matt Cloud said. “Now we’ve kind of put ourselves on the map for both, and she’s helped us get there.”
“I remember when we lost at state in the fall,” Johnson said, “Coach Cloud told me, ‘Britney, you put us on the map.’ That really stuck with me.”
She is free in her praise of the coach, applauding his guidance in building a program that should continue to bear his leadership.
“Our goal isn’t just to get (to Oklahoma City),” Cloud said. “We’d like to make it to the finals and give ourselves a chance to play for the state championship.”
Johnson’s senior swan song was glittering. The southpaw had a 19-7 mark and a 1.65 ERA. Opponents managed to bat just .189 against her. While in the circle she fired seven shutouts.
She tossed 149 innings, rang-up 164 batters on strikes and issued only 54 walks.
When not pitching, she played in the field. As a senior she batted .492 and toted a .697 slugging percentage. She made contact as adept as she has made an impact, striking out just five times in 122 at bats, or once every 24 at bats.
She is planning to study Early Childhood Education as well as Sign Language.
Britney is the youngest of three daughters to parents Donny and Tammie. Her eldest, Briana (25), lives in Tahlequah, while Bailey (21) currently attends SAGU. She is majoring in Music Ministry.
Britney is also drawn to the ministry. Saying she is very active in her home church, she plays the piano and sings with the youth group worship team.
She is active in Fine Arts as well, performing vocally, in human videos and drama solos.
Perhaps the most memorable moment in Johnson’s prep career came less than two weeks ago. She was chosen to speak to her peers at the Tahlequah High School baccalaureate service.
Dating back to the medieval custom of presenting candidates for the degree of Bachelor (bacca) with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration, Johnson challenged seniors to "lead a life worthy of their calling."
She gave advice in how to discover their calling from God; in prayer, to study the Bible’s wisdom and then to “live it out,” trusting in God’s direction, timing and plans.
Johnson then shared her testimony of trusting the Lord that included her turning away from her scholarship at the University of Central Arkansas (NCAA Division I) to attend SAGU.
It was during SAGU's “College Days” last fall that she felt God leading her to Waxahachie. She came to the two-day event with a group of seniors from her church youth group.
About SAGU Softball
SAGU, who went from 2-28 in their inaugural season two years ago to 13-24 this year under Coach Grant, will change leagues.
The Lady Lions have been members in the Red River Athletic Conference through this spring. Beginning this fall they will join the Sooner Athletic Conference, the NAIA’s premier league.
The Sooner has 11 teams in Oklahoma (6), Arkansas (1) and Texas (4). Two teams from the league advanced to the NAIA Nationals, a 10-team double-elimination tournament held in Columbus, Georgia.
SAGU improved their team batting average to .312 this year, ranking fifth in the RRAC. They averaged 4.5 runs per game, more than doubling their total from 2012.
The Lions’ freshman third baseman Kelsey Coburn (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) had a super season, hitting .427 and driving in 32 runs, both rated fourth best in the RRAC.
Team pitchers combined for a 7.05 ERA, ranking eighth of nine teams. A year ago it was last at 10.73.
Sophomore transfer Ashley Abair (Kennedale, Tx / Kennedale HS) had the team’s best ERA at 5.18. Her record (4-6) was second to freshman Blayr Huff (Keller, Tx / Liberty Christian), who was 3-3.
A target area for improvement will be in strike-outs. The young Purple Pride whiffed just 1.50 batters per game, last in the Red River.
The team will report to fall camp in September, where players will battle for positions.
The 2014 schedule, which will be released later in the summer, will begin in late January. Additional recruits will soon be announced.
A review of the 2013 Lady Lions season will appear on-line next week.