Kassidy Johnson’s senior softball season was over before it started, and the end had nothing to do with COVID-19.
Johnson was coming into the 2020 campaign as the reigning Times Player of the Year, after powering Manchester Valley to the Carroll County Athletic League championship last spring. Her senior year of basketball came to a halt, however, when Johnson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee Jan. 10.
The setback won’t be hurting her chances of playing softball as soon as possible, if Johnson has anything to do with it.
The Mavericks standout said her rehabilitation process is ahead of schedule, and she’s gunning to be healthy in time for her first fall ball college experience at Mount St. Mary’s later this year.
“I am really surprised,” Johnson said. "My physical therapist has told me I need to slow down a little bit because I’m getting a little anxious. But being [home], I don’t have that much pressure on me anymore, so I can relax and recover how I need to. People are saying, Kassidy, how are you recovering so quickly? I don’t know, I just didn’t have any pain.”
Johnson said she went up for an uncontested layup during the Mavs’ basketball game against Winters Mill on that January evening — less than halfway through the first quarter — and felt something pop when she jumped toward the basket. Athletic trainers checked her, Johnson said, applied ice, and determined it was OK if she went back in because her injury didn’t seem serious.
Johnson said she felt “just a little uncomfortable” and chose not to play again that night, but returned to practice for a few more days. Only after a visit to a walk-in orthopedic clinic, and a subsequent MRI, Johnson said, did the official diagnosis confirm her fears.
“When I found out I was in shock,” she said. “I didn’t understand how, I didn’t understand why. I didn’t have any of the symptoms that other people have had.”
A torn ACL meant no more basketball, and no more softball at Manchester Valley. And that stung MV softball coach Mike Hernandez, who has coached Johnson for many years.
Losing Johnson meant losing the Mavericks’ go-to player ― Johnson led Carroll County last spring with a .649 batting average, 48 hits, 16 doubles, and eight home runs. She collected 35 RBIs and helped the Mavericks go 12-0 in the CCAL for their first county title in three seasons.
She hold the program records for home runs with 16, and set single-season Mavs marks in 2019 for doubles and average.
Johnson is a Times three-time first-team all-county selection — she hit .406 with five homers and 16 RBIs as a sophomore after batting .460 with six doubles, three triples, three home runs, and 18 RBIs in 2017.
“The kid has always had a positive, positive attitude,” Hernandez said. “She wants to learn, she wants to listen. She soaks up everything you’re talking to her about when it comes to coaching.”
Johnson had surgery Jan. 22 to repair her torn ACL. Three weeks later, she said, her knee brace was no longer needed. Johnson said she has been going to physical therapy appointments three times per week since the surgery, and that hasn’t wavered during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson said gets outside for occasional hitting drills, and she’s taking walks to stay active. When Johnson talked with Hernandez before this spring that he could use her as a designated hitter, and then go for a courtesy runner when she reached base, she was only half-joking.
“I know she hated me saying it every time, but I said, ‘Kass, I am looking out for your future. As much as I want you now, how important you are to me now, your future means so much more to me,’” Hernandez said.
The spring sports season remains on hold, but with each day it becomes more of a dream that Johnson will join her high school softball teammates on a field one last time. Still, her softball plans are in place.
Last fall, Johnson signed a national letter of intent and committed to Mount St. Mary’s. Her first college spring season is slated for 2021, but Johnson said she wants to be contributing for the Mountaineers when they gather for 2020 fall ball.
“I’ve been doing a lot. My rehab is going really well,” she said. “They think I’m going to be ahead of schedule, which is a really good sign. ... That’s my goal, to be in full swing coming into August and September. I want to be fully cleared.”
Hernandez said he feels confident in Johnson’s progress.
“I am going to be looking forward to seeing her on the ball field at Mount St. Mary’s when she’s a freshman,” the coach said. “I can guarantee you at some point, maybe right not at the very first moment, but I can guarantee you I’ll see Kassidy Johnson on that ball field playing ball up there.”