By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — When Lemon Bay High School’s Ashton Werden and Bridget Ruhl graduated in 2015, it left the softball team with a barren pitching staff.
Mixed with the loss of captains Brooke Clemens — The Sun’s 2015 all-area player of the year — and Kacyn Shirley, the Manta Rays needed to replace the nucleus of a team that had advanced to the Class 5A region finals.
If the softball team were a car, it was stranded on the side of the road with four flat tires.
Enter Logan Johnson, who came into the season expected to be one of those temporary patches to get Lemon Bay to its destination.
Instead, Johnson’s right arm turned into three brand new tires for the Manta Rays, with her bat acting as the fourth tire for free.
“She never threw a single inning for us last year,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “We knew she’d be someone who could pitch, but I don’t think even she thought she’d do as well as she has.
“It’s been huge for us. This team gets along very well. It’s been fun to watch them appreciate what she does. At the same time, it’s been a nice, unexpected treat. We had a lot of variables coming into this year. To know we have a No. 1 pitcher has been very important to us.”
Johnson will lead the Manta Rays (11-9) in the District 5A-12 tournament, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Lake Placid.
Making 18 starts this season, Johnson has compiled an 11-6 record, while allowing 59 earned runs over 97 innings pitched — roughly 80 percent of Lemon Bay’s total innings. She’s also the Manta Rays’ cleanup hitter, batting .321 with two home runs, 11 walks, 20 runs batted in and 18 runs scored.
Although her success as a pitcher came as a surprise to Pinkham, it was a well-kept secret the sophomore was holding on to.
“I had stopped pitching on my travel team, and didn’t really talk about it,” Johnson said. “Once I realized the two pitchers on our team were seniors, I knew I had to step it up for my team, so I started taking pitching lessons from (former Lemon Bay pitcher) Brooke Carvey. She really helped me a lot. I give her a lot of credit for my pitching.”
Johnson, a right-hander, isn’t only the school’s No. 1 pitcher, she also happens to be one of Lemon Bay’s best musicians.
She was named the section leader of the marching band’s percussion pit this year. In addition to various mallet instruments like the marimba and xylophone, Johnson also plays the violin, guitar and bass. She taught herself how to play the last two.
Prior to attending Lemon Bay, the self-proclaimed “Orch Dork” was a first-chair violinist in Heron Creek Middle School’s orchestra.
Lemon Bay band director Joshua Grossnicklaus equates Johnson’s success with softball to how easily she picks up music.
“It’s all about coordination,” Grossnicklaus said. “It’s different muscles and what you develop and learn to train. It’s all because a matter of practice and repetition to get those muscles stronger. She’s dedicated and hard-working. She understands what needs to be done to accomplish her goals.”
With a first name like Logan — which, according to various naming websites, roughly 95 percent of the 30,000 Logans living in the United States are males — there must be a story behind how she got her name.
Johnson’s father, Steve, provided one.
“About 10 years before Logan was born, we bought some property up in Michigan from an old man,” the father said. “His name was Logan Johnson. He wasn’t related to us. My wife liked the name Logan with Johnson, and she was going to name our daughter Logan.”
The name Logan, according to the Dictionary of Family Names, has Gaelic origins, and translates to mean “little hollow.”
Then apparently that’s the perfect name for Johnson, considering she’s pretty good at swinging a little hollow softball bat.
DISTRICT SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
Cypress Lake at Port Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Cypress Lake/Port Charlotte vs. Island Coast/Mariner, 7 p.m.
Venice at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Lake Placid at Lemon Bay, 7:30 p.m.
District 7A-11 championship
District 6A-11 championship
District 5A-12 championship