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Manchester Valley infielder Kassidy Johnson is the 2019 Carroll County Times Softball Player of the Year.
Manchester Valley infielder Kassidy Johnson is the 2019 Carroll County Times Softball Player of the Year. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Kassidy Johnson admits she’s quite superstitious.

The Manchester Valley junior infielder had a solid group of teammates around her this spring that understood these superstitions, and they let her roll with them. She had a specific game-day regimen where she ran through a series of hitting drills in the same order each time. This strategy certainly worked in Johnson’s favor.

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She led the Carroll County Athletic League with a .690 batting average 16 doubles, and eight home runs. She also led the Mavericks with 35 RBIs, good for second in the county, en route to being named Times Softball Player of the Year.

Johnson holds Man Valley’s all-time home runs record at 16. She also set single-season marks in 2019 records for doubles and batting average.

“I think my team always being there for me has helped me grow so much because they’ve always had my back,” Johnson said. “Even if I made a mistake, they’d be like, ‘Kassidy, you’re good, you’ve got the next play.’ And if they made a mistake, I would say, ‘No one is going to be perfect, we’re going to make mistakes.’ Coach Mike [Hernandez] knows that too, so them being there for me has been the key factor for me growing as an athlete.”

Manchester Valley went undefeated in county play this spring to capture its second county title in four seasons. They suffered a 17-7 loss to Brunswick on April 11, a game Hernandez called his team’s worst of the year, but rebounded to win seven straight to help secure that championship.

One of those county wins came against Westminster, played exactly one week after that Brunswick loss. Hernandez said he was concerned with thoughts of how his team would rebound, but the girls handled it with ease.

It was a 0-0 game in the fifth inning and the Mavericks took off from there. Johnson homered and the Mavs rolled to an 8-1 victory, good for their eighth straight county win.

Winning those games down the stretch gave the team a confidence boost to keep up their winning ways, Johnson added. The Mavs dropped their final two games of the regular season, however, but rebounded with two Class 3A West playoff wins before falling to Linganore in the regional final to finish the year at 15-6.

“I knew … when we hit that midway point where we knew that’s when you have to buckle down and get ready for playoffs,” Johnson said. “We need to start being determined and during practice you need to work hard and get ready for the games. I knew then, even though we were still feeling each other out on the field, we knew we were going to get there.”

Manchester Valley hosted Westminster in a Carroll County Athletic League matchup on April 29, 2019.

Grade level was no hardship for this year’s Mavericks — they boasted talent at every age group — and it was widely embraced throughout the program. Johnson’s tenacity as a power hitter and as a defensive stronghold in the infield helped keep the Mavs in contention through every game this spring.

“All of us jelled, we all came together so well,” Johnson said. “Even if we had girls who weren’t as experienced as others, we all came together and worked hard and we got it done in practice. When it came to game time, we were focused and ready to go.

“We did have times where we goofed off but we knew when game time came that it was time to play and I think that’s what played a key factor in our success this year.”

Hernandez, who has been the Mavs’ coach since the school opened, said Johnson is very humble and it’s a quality he recognized in making her one of his team captains this season.

“Being the player she is, she doesn’t treat her teammates like they’re less than her,” Hernandez said. “She treats them as equals, and that’s fantastic … I’m very proud of her.”

Manchester Valley's Kassidy Johnson sprints home to score the first run of the game during a softball game against Century at Manchester Valley High School on April 10.
Manchester Valley's Kassidy Johnson sprints home to score the first run of the game during a softball game against Century at Manchester Valley High School on April 10. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)
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