Britney Johnson put Tahlequah softball on the map. Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud made that very comment prior to the Lady Tigers appearing in the slowpitch state tournament in May.
Now it’s up to Morgan Tarrance and Lindsay Wade to keep Tahlequah’s spot in the atlas. The two will combine pitching efforts to attempt to replace Johnson, who transferred to Tahlequah prior to her sophomore season and helped the Lady Tigers make three straight state tournament appearances from 2010 to 2012.
“She set the bar high for (Tarrance and Wade),” Cloud said of Johnson, who prolonged her softball career by signing with Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas.
“She put our program on the map and I’ve told her that before. She’s laid the groundwork for us to be successful for years to come.”
Johnson wrapped up her Tahlequah career with a 17-7 record and 1.65 earned run average during her senior campaign. She logged 148 2/3 innings in which she notched 164 strikeouts compared to only 54 walks.
Certainly a big void to fill for Tarrance and Wade.
“It’s going to be very nerve-wrecking filling her shoes,” said Tarrance, who went 7-0 with a 0.54 ERA in 39 innings as a sophomore last season.
“She definitely did a good job last year, and it’s going to be hard [to replace her]. But I’m glad that I have Lindsay to help me. I’m thinkin’ we’ll be OK, hopefully.”
Wade contributed 31 1/3 innings as a freshman in 2012. She went 6-1 and sported a 1.56 ERA.
Pitching last year “helped me get the feel of pitching at the varsity level,” said Wade, who had an average of 9.38 strikeouts per game. “I really just watched Britney, and I learned a lot just watching her.”
Tahlequah opens its 2013 slate with a doubleheader at East Central on Aug. 12. As of right now, Cloud is still unsure as to who will toe the rubber in the season opener.
“I think they’re both battling for the actual No. 1 spot,” said Cloud, whose club went 29-8 and lost to Chickasha in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament last season.
“And at this point, I honestly — some people say they’re not going to tell until the first day — I honestly don’t know who it’s going to be. It could go either way.”
No matter how it shakes out, Tarrance and Wade will be there for one another the whole way.
“We help each other a lot,” Tarrance said. “We talk about our pitching together, and we talk about the spin (on the ball), if it’s not breaking and what we can do to help each other.”
When it comes to velocity and breaking pitches, both can boast at being the best in at least one category.
“Lindsay is more of a power pitcher,” Cloud said, “and Morgan is more of a finesse and hitting her spots. I think they’ll contrast well to where we won’t ride one person 10 games in a row.”
When Johnson appeared in the circle, Tahlequah’s season never ended short of the state tournament. But as for right now, Tahlequah has its eye on claiming the district crown and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
“I think we have a pretty good chance with our pitching and hitting,” Wade said of Tahlequah’s prospects of snagging a district title. “But it’s our pitching that everyone is going to count on. We just have to dig in and have a lot of heart.”