After sitting out the entire 2016 season due to a knee injury, Boonville senior Kyla Johnson knew she had to make up for some lost time in 2017 for the Lady Pirates softball team.
Although Johnson was regulated to the bench for her junior year, head coach Christie Zoeller still recalls how Johnson helped Zoe Coffelt at the catcher position.
“Kyla was just a great teacher and leader for us even as a junior,” Zoeller said. “She is just a very smart player. She knows the game, she knows the situations and she knows what to do. We are going to miss her immensely but for four years she has contributed a lot to our program and everything.”
Johnson hopes to be a great leader and teacher as well for the next-two seasons at North Central Missouri College in Trenton after signing a national letter of intent before the Christmas break.
Johnson said she signed with NCMC because she liked how the small school campground is and everyone there is nice, and the softball program is awesome.
North Central Missouri College softball coach Steve Richman said he is very excited about Johnson.
“I think she is going to bring a lot of depth to us in a lot of the areas and she can play the corner and she can catch,” Richman said. “She is a good catcher and she is going to bring some hitting to us that we are going to need. It’s kind of funny how all this transpired because I heard a lot of good things about Kyla as far as all-around. Again I think she is a good catcher and I think probably her biggest asset is going to be her hitting. She is a contact hitter and what I mean by that is that she is a power hitting type kid and hits gaps and at the college level that’s what you have to have.”
Johnson definitely held her own at the plate for the Lady Pirates. While hitting in the No. 4 spot for Boonville behind Camryn Monteer, Josie Robb and Jamie Lemmons, Johnson still managed to hit with power while finishing with a .394 average with 28 hits in 71 at-bats with 17 singles, nine doubles, one triple and one home run. She also drove in 21 runs and scored 10 runs while finishing with an on-base percentage of .429 and a slugging percentage of .592.
Of course Johnson knows that in order to play at the next level she will need to improve on her strength in hitting and then stepping up on catching to be at the level the coach needs me to be.
Zoeller said she has no doubt that Johnson will work hard and improve on her game at the next level.
“Kyla came back good from her injury and worked really hard to get herself ready to play this season,” Zoeller said. “I think she is a smart catcher but she is also a good infielder and her hitting has really come along. I think having that whole year off kind of hurt Kyla at the beginning of our season, but then she came around at the end. I think Kyla will be able to do a lot of great things at North Central. I am glad she chose a junior college because it will be a good place for her to go and play and I think she will be very successful there.”
Johnson also explained the recruiting process with North Central. While also showing interest in State Fair Community College in Sedalia and Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Johnson said during her fall ball for traveling one of her friends’ coaches knew her and wanted to help her look for a good college  to continue her softball career. “He ended up messaging Coach Richman about me so whenever state came for high school season he came and watched me play and talked to me afterwards,” Johnson said. “So following that I went on a camp visit and I fell in love with the school.”
Although catcher will be Johnson’s main position at North Central, she said she may also be used as a utility player following up on third base.
Johnson said as far as her short term and long term goals in softball, she said her goals are being able to start catching and being at an A level the first-two years throughout this college. As far as her long term goals, she said she wants to progress as an athlete throughout her career in softball.
Needless to say the thought of playing softball at the next level started way before high school. Johnson said ever since she started t-ball she always told her mom that she wanted to continue to play whenever she got older. “Whenever I was little I always watched the Florida Gator softball team and told my mom that I was going to be like them one day,” Johnson said. “So now I’m continuing to show my mom how far I can go, and just show everybody my passion about softball. I love the game.”
Johnson said playing softball in the summer also helped her fulfill her dream.
“It helped a lot with all the coaches that would help me every day during practices and on my free time,” Johnson said. “Going to the World Series all the time when I was little. It’s just been a great help for me to be able to step up in high school and play, Now I am continuing to go and play in college.”
Johnson also recalls the biggest game of her career. Although Johnson had two three-hit games this season against New Franklin and Versailles, she said the biggest game of her career was the first game during districts against Moberly.
“I remember I was up to bat the first two times and I wasn’t doing too hot, but in the field I was throwing everybody out and just trying to make sure we stayed far ahead,” Johnson said. “I also supported my teammates. And then everybody was encouraging me about batting and telling me I can do it and then wouldn’t you know it I stepped up to bat and hit a home run to make us further ahead. It was just exciting because we won our first district game and wanted to continue on. But I can’t really remember the biggest game of my career. I can say all were the best, some not but I never hated one game out of my career. I love the game of softball, it’s my passion.”
Johnson also credits her mother because she has been through everything with her. “I’ve watched my mom whenever she was in high school to play and I’ve just been excited that she’s here for me because she’s also one of my coaches. I can’t thank her enough for going out of her way sometimes to take me places. She’s my big role model and I don’t think I would be where I am right now without her.”