By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — When Britney Johnson moved to Tahlequah from Salina, Kan., after her freshman year, there was a lot riding on her shoulders — or more specifically, her left arm. That was the appendage that was going to get Tahlequah over the hump. All the Lady Tigers lacked was a pitcher.
To say Johnson did what she was asked to do would be an understatement. She has helped Tahlequah become a mainstay at both the fastpitch and slowpitch state tournaments now — six in all, three in fastpitch, three in slowpitch.
She’s been a part of 212 Tahlequah softball victories over six semesters. (Of course, that number could climb to 215 by day’s end.)
One state runner-up distinction (reference 2011 5A fastpitch finals). Again, the hardware hoarding could continue.
One All-State selection. And don’t be surprised if she’s a slowpitch All-Stater, too.
Johnson isn’t the boastful type. That’s why Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud reinforced her importance after Tahlequah’s quarterfinal loss at the 5A fastpitch state tournament in the fall.
Without Johnson, Tahlequah softball would still be a wayward soul still searching for direction.
“Before she got here, we had never been to the state tournament in fastpitch,” Tahlequah 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 this year,” Johnson said, “Coach Cloud told me, ‘Britney, you put us on the map.’ That’s really stuck with me.”
Hard to envision an ego boost better than that.
“It makes me fell good; I think it would make anyone feel good,” Johnson said. “It makes me feel like I came in and did what was necessary. I came in and filled a need. Now I’m leaving here in a good place, leaving here with a good legacy.”
As much as praise as Cloud bestowed on Johnson, the favor has been returned.
“He’s really built the program,” Johnson said, “and I think from here on out, they’ll have an awesome group of girls and they’ll be able to go far.”
Indeed, Cloud has stabilized the program. Like Johnson, he’s six for six when it comes to making it to Oklahoma City.
“Our goal isn’t just to get there,” Cloud said. “We’d like to make it to the finals and give ourselves a chance to play for the state championship.”
First up for the Lady Tigers is a date with Broken Arrow at 10 a.m. today.