By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
University of the Cumberlands coach Angie Dean tried to recall all the North Laurel players that have played for the Lady Patriots. Then she stopped naming names afraid she would leave one out. The count reached eight, including current Lady Patriots Carrie Root, Gloriann Cordero, and Rachel Akins.
“They know the game of softball, probably more than any of my signees,” Dean said of the North Laurel alumni. “They step right in. I don’t think I’ve had a North Laurel girl not start.”
Dean added one more to the list when Blake Johnson signed with Cumberlands Wednesday. She too is expected to make an impact right away.
“Blake is much, much needed. We have a senior catcher that graduated. She played catcher for four years,” Dean said.
Cumberlands also had a freshman catcher that saw playing time this season, but Johnson will compete for the position.
“She will have a great opportunity to step in and either share time with the freshman, who will be a sophomore, or beat her out,” Dean said. “We need catching.”
North Laurel coach Becky Osborne also sees Johnson as having an instant impact on any team.
“She’s got a lot of knowledge of the game. She really helps pitchers out. She can make them look better than what they are. She can frame a ball unreal,” Osborne said.
This is the second college signee for Osborne. Kristen Field, last year’s only senior, signed with Alice Lloyd. Although Osborne is thrilled to see Johnson accomplish a goal, she isn’t thrilled to see her leave.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. I think a lot of Blake. I’m glad she has been successful at the high school level and hope she can be that successful at the college level,” Osborne said. “It’s sad to see them grow up. I’ve known Blake since she was to my knees.”
Johnson has been a starter since eighth grade. The Lady Jaguars have won the 13th Region title and played in the state tournament every season she has played.
“She’s just an all-around good player and a good kid. I’m really proud of her,” Osborne said. “She’s going where she wanted to go.”
It was former North Laurel player Ashley Wampler, now an assistant for University of the Cumberlands that did much of the recruiting of Johnson. When they started to target catchers they knew they wanted Johnson.
“She’s real smooth. She’s confident back there and has a good arm. Even though she is young, I think she’s going to add some leadership,” Dean said.