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Brantley standout Johnson named Gatorade Player of the Year

It is with a community first mindset that Brantley Lady Bulldogs softball pitcher Leanna Johnson celebrates being named Alabama’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Johnson found out she had been named the Alabama softball player of the year on Monday. She said it doesn’t seem that long ago when she was first nominated for the award.

“I remember being told in the middle of the day while I was in the, but didn’t really think I’d actually win it,” she laughed. “When I was told on Monday I couldn’t believe it. Being named the player of the year is such an honor.”

In her career as a Brantley Bulldog, Johnson compiled a 48-4 record with a 0.45 ERA. She also struck out 536 batters in 265.2 innings pitched. To go along with her dominace in the circle, she also had a career batting average of .374, seven homeruns and 43 RBI. Johnson has also been named Class 1A pitcher of the year three times.

The career stats are staggering but Brantley head coach Cindy Hawthorne said Johnson earned the player of he year award for much more.

“Leanna bleeds green and wants the community of Brantley and the team succeed as a whole,” she said. “She has spent hours working with rec league kids in the community. The younger girls in Brantley and the rest of the high school girls really look up to her. Leanna is truly one of a kind.”

Each year, one athlete from each state, and the District of Columbia, is named Gatorade Player of the Year for each sanctioned high school sport. Hawthorne feels the correct choice was made in Alabama for softball.

“Leanna is very deserving of this award in my opinion,” she said. “Brantley has never had an athlete named the Gatorade Player of the Year. So, it’s a huge honor for her and the community.”

Johnson has signed with Troy University to play college softball. Hawthorne is looking forward to Johnson playing college ball so close to home.

“Crenshaw County as a whole should be very proud of Leanna,” she said. “I know I can’t wait to see how well she does for the Trojans. We’re all very happy she was able to stay so close to home.”

The Lady Bulldogs finished the 2018 season with a state championship win. Johnson hopes to see the tradition of winning continue at Brantley.

“I am and always will be a Brantley Bulldog. No matter where I go,” she said. “I think the team is looking good for next year. We ended this season the way we wanted to. So, I think next year’s team has a lot to build off of.”

It isn’t uncommon for successful athletes to accept awards, but not expect them. While she said it is an honor to be named player of the year, Johnson believes the award is more of a reflection on those closest to her.

“I out God first in everything I do and I couldn’t have won this award with Him blessing me with talent,” she said. “My coaches, teammates and the community of Brantley have been behind me the whole time. There’s no way I could’ve achieved this without them.”