Johnston becomes leader for CCHS

Published 5:52 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

Eye of the tiger: Chilton County senior shortstop Rachel Johnston was named The Clanton Advertiser’s Softball Player of the Year after leading the Tigers to their second consecutive county tournament title.

Rachel Johnston stood out on the Chilton County softball field—in more ways than one.

The Tigers were a tight-knit squad, but Johnston wasn’t there from the beginning, and she may not be in uniform as the program accomplishes its most significant goal.

Johnston started for Verbena in grades 7-8 but transferred to Chilton County as a freshman. She was overwhelmed by a much larger school and new faces on the practice field, ones that knew everyone else except the new girl.

But Johnston’s talent shone through, and the once shy shortstop became a team leader—and The Clanton Advertiser’s Player of the Year.

Johnston batted .410 with 44 runs scored, 30 singles, five doubles, five triples, two home runs, 19 runs batted in and nine stolen bases as CCHS reached two milestones for the second consecutive season: winning the county softball tournament and reaching the regional tournament round of the state playoffs.

A couple of the highlights of Johnston’s senior year were defeating Pelham in the opening game of the season (the Tigers hadn’t topped the Panthers in Johnston’s time on the team) and hitting her first grand slam home run.

Still, Chilton again failed to advance to the state tournament.

“Our team was so close,” Johnston said. “It was just like a family. We didn’t make it as far as we wanted to, but I’ll always remember this season.”

The Tigers have a chance to make state next year because they are composed mostly of juniors (Johnston and Amanda Whorf were the only two seniors on the roster).

So, if CCHS meets expectations and reaches the state tournament, Johnston, such an important part of the squad for four years, would be watching from the sidelines.

Still, Johnston said she would cheer her teammates on all the way.

“I’ll definitely come and support them,” she said. “Once a team, always a team.”