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Johnson County Lady Longhorn Softball Team kick off first game in summer league

Johnson County Lady Longhorn Softball Team kick off first game in summer league

The Johnson County Lady Longhorn Softball team kicked off their first game in the Happy Valley Summer League playing a double header against the first of the Lady Warriors two summer teams. Along with Happy Valley, the Lady Longhorns will be competing with Watauga County, NC, Hampton, and David Crockett in a series of games over the coming weeks. Stepping up to coach the girls this summer, Lisa Mullins seemed both pleased and excited with the results of Johnson County’s first outing. “Overall they did very well. We played two games and had a lot of freshmen there, seven in all, and only one senior. It wasn’t a bad night. I was a little leery at the beginning because we had people in different positions, but they were all right, especially once the incoming freshmen settled down. They looked like they were scared to death at first, but they were very good,” she said.
Fortunately for the program, the incoming freshman class was full of talent, and Mullins sees the summer league as a prime opportunity to get a feel for what the team might be able to pull together for next year. “It’s a whole lot more laid back. It’s just, ‘let’s see what we can do. Here’s a ball, here’s a bat.’ You can’t really compare it to the regular season. You just throw people out there and see what you’re going to have and what you think you might do. You try to find out who is going to fill in the positions you lose. It’s going to be hard to find someone to replace Eden Smith in center field, but we’ve got some girls trying really hard to do it. We ended up losing seven players actually. We lost the four seniors, possibly Brooke Garr, Kelsey Watson is focusing on her academics, and Liza Watson has moved.”
According to Mullins, such a big loss has thrown several key positions into question, most importantly catcher. “Meghan Walter played catcher last night, but we only have one catcher right now. Haley Miller is not playing because of a shoulder injury. Sometimes in situations like that you just don’t know what might happen,” she said.
Thankfully, the Lady Longhorns also have some unique opportunities in other areas. “We haven’t had this much pitching in a while. Cindy Eddington, Hope Nelson, Brianna Snyder, and Demi Blevins, it’s been a while since we’ve had this many girls that can pitch, that we can take somewhere to hone their skills and make better,” Mullins said.
One of the early standouts was Brianna Snyder, who performed very well in middle school as pitcher. “We only pitched two people this time,” said Mullins. “Hope Nelson in the first game and Brianna Snyder in the second and both did very well. Brianna worked very hard to get here and she’s doing everything she needs to be a better ball player. She’s willing to work and willing to go to somebody and get the extra help.” Mullins also noted several other excellent performances from the return players as well, most notably a strong showing at second base by Kallie Sluder.
Although the Lady Longhorns did very well defensively, they also shone on the offense, gaining ten runs in just the second and third innings of the first game. In all there were 12 players and each one got the opportunity at bat. Happy Valley tried out four pitchers against Johnson County but could not hold the Lady Longhorns back. By the end of the night Johnson County had won both games, taking home a 10-2 victory in the first and a 7-4 in the second.
One of the biggest hits of the night was a double by Meghan Walter in the second inning of the first game, earning her just one of seven back-to-back Lady Longhorn runs in that inning. The strong contact carried over into the first inning of the second game, where the Lady Longhorns picked up a five run streak.
With a very strong first game behind them, hopefully Johnson County will be able to carry their momentum forward as they face the David Crockett Pioneers in the next round. Yet, regardless of the outcome of those later games, the summer league is certainly going to be a helpful tool for Johnson County Softball next spring. As Mullins noted, “Summer ball is a good time to start looking at next year. You can see the dedication in the girls, get a feel for who really wants to play, and you hope to get some surprises along the way as well.”
To read the rest of the article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.