LONGMONT — Jim Dornan would look at his lineup card last year and wonder what he was getting.
It was his first year as the Longmont head coach, and at times it was a mystery.
But not when he looked at his battery. Every game, he wrote in Sophia Johnson at pitcher and Sierra Green at catcher, and it was a comforting exercise.
“The words in the English language have not been invented yet,” Dornan said of having the pitcher and catcher on his squad last year. “Those two have the biggest backs, because there were games they just carried us.”
Johnson and Green are back again this year, and in familiar spots. The two are now seniors — they’re four-year starters — and they’re pumped for the 2005 season.
“We’re very excited for this season because we have the consistency with the same group of girls,” Johnson said. “The girls that were young last year played a lot of summer ball and improved a lot. I think we have a lot more than we did last year.”
Even with the marked improvement of the rest of the team, the Trojans’ fate lies squarely on the shoulders of Green and Johnson. Not only are they the most experienced players on the squad, they play the most important positions.
“A pitcher is like a goalie in hockey,” Dornan said. “If you have a good goalie, you can have a mediocre team around them and they can pick you up.”
Johnson and Green are accustomed to picking each other up. They are great friends, they share a strong faith, and they know how to get the best out of each other on the diamond.
“If she’s struggling with a pitch, you can tell, and I won’t call that,” Green said. “We’ll mix it up a lot. We’re just really close, and that helps.”
The advantage of having played in so many games together is that they don’t even need to speak in order to communicate.
“If I felt I was on with my screw, I would give her a nod, and she would know what I was doing,” Johnson said. “We communicated nonverbally. We both know how to talk to each other and pump each other up.”
About the only thing they don’t share are the same hallways at school. Green attends Faith Baptist, but because the Pioneers don’t have a softball program, she plays for the Trojans.
That’s the only thing keeping them from constant contact throughout the school day.
“If we both went to the same school, we would know what was going on that day,” Johnson said. “At practice, we have a lot to talk about because our days are different.”
What they’re talking about a lot now is adding to the memories of their sophomore season. The Trojans entered that 2003 district tournament in Evergreen with a 3-15 record and having lost 12 of their last 13. They promptly beat Niwot, 6-3, and Evergreen, 2-1, to advance to regionals the next weekend, where they lost in the first round to Conifer, 5-0.
“We had a rough season, and just getting to districts was exciting,” Green said. “Getting past that was a huge thing for our team.”
Johnson relishes the memory, too.
“I will always remember districts our sophomore year,” she said. “We beat Niwot and Evergreen. We were down in the second game and came back.”
Green and Johnson feel like they’re on a team that can make another postseason run, but it will be important to start out strong, starting today against defending Northern Conference champion Thompson Valley.
“We have to drill from the beginning how important it is to work hard because the season comes up really fast,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the biggest regrets I’ve faced in basketball and softball, not coming out strong in the beginning. You take it too lightly, and you look back on it and wish you would have worked harder.”
At least this year, Dornan can smile when he makes out the lineup because he knows where he can put the players.
“Last year, when we put our lineup together, we looked at who was the best fit where,” he said. “This year, our freshman class is improved so much. We were in shock at how good they got. I’m excited. We’re clearly better than we were last year.”