Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty softball player Johanna Lewis (hat) and her family are all smiles after she ceremonially signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Vanguard University. From left are twin sister Jamie, father Steven, mother Lori and sister Jessica.
Johanna Lewis put her name on the dotted line and she announced before family and friends she will be attending Vanguard University to play softball.
Lewis, the school’s fourth leading hitter, ceremonially signed in front of family and friends at the Liberty High School gym on Friday and will send in her official document today.
Lewis has been dreaming about attending Vanguard University in Costa Mesa since her freshman year.
“They are a private Christian school,” she said. “Just going there, it seems like family. They pray before each practice and after. They have team bonding all of the time. They are a well-knit team and put Christ first no matter what. They put schooling second, character third and softball fourth. That was most important to me. I want to play softball, but Christ is the most important for me. It’s awesome to go to a school that has something else first than softball.”
Lewis is also a star on the soccer field, but chose softball because that’s a sport she excelled since she was a freshman.
“When I was growing up, I was soccer and softball,” she said. “I couldn’t pick. When I hit high school, that’s when I started as a freshman. I saw how much confidence I had on the softball field than on the soccer field. There were some schools that were trying to get me to play soccer and softball. With all the injuries in soccer, that kind of made my choice.”
Lewis’ signing is the fourth for the Hawks in the past two seasons.
“This community has been blessed with incredible people,” longtime Liberty softball coach Bob Barber said. “When you have enough people committed to working with the kids and develop the kids and creating an environment to thrive and succeed in, you get these kind of results. These results don’t happen because the Ranchos don’t produce great softball players. We have a team of people in this community who love the team and these kids and who are committed to develop the kids. You have to give credit to the youth league. Those are the seeds that grow into these ball players that go to the next level. There’s a lot of great people wjp love to give back to the kids who love this game.”
Lewis injured her knee in the fall and won’t be able to play this season and her twin sister Jaime injured her knee in last year’s Div. II girls soccer Valley Championship game and has now just started to play for the Hawks.
“I want to thank my coaches,” Lewis said at her signing day. “They have made me the player I am today. I am thankful for all of my softball coaches. They believed in me.”
Lewis also received an offer from San Diego Christian, but ultimately chose the school she’s been wanting to play for since she was a freshman.
“There was a little hesitation about which school to go to because of my knee,” she said. “I really liked San Diego, as well. I thought about it a little bit, but then, ultimately, I love Vanguard and wanted to go there.”
Lewis saw Vanguard coaches at a travel team tournament in Southern California and introduced herself with the coaches.
“I was excited to meet them,” she said. “We kept in touch and they came to some of my games.”
Lewis credits a lot of her softball success to the players that have come before her — Darbi Duke, Miranda Porter, Renee Ortega, Summer Mendoza and Ana Hayes.
“It’s been a roller coaster, for sure,” Lewis reflected. “Starting as a freshman, I was so nervous and excited. I learned so much from Darbi. I learned from all the seniors. They taught me so much. It made me want to play harder for them. Those are my favorite years. Last year was my favorite year because I played with Summer. I’m really bummed I can’t play this year because of my knee. Maybe I can bat on Senior Night and walk to first.”
Lewis’ career batting average of .468 is fourth best in school history. She is also tied for fourth with 47 hits her sophomore season, fourth with 20 stolen bases in her sophomore season and fifth in career stolen bases with 32.
“God blessed Johanna with natural speed and skill,” Barber said. “What her parents blessed her with is a great attitude. When you have someone that has athletic ability with a great attitude, you take one step back and say how can I help that player become the player they are capable of being. Bottom line is she has a great work ethic.”
Although she can’t play, Lewis will become the team’s biggest cheerleader.
“Even though I can’t play, I’ll be at every single practice,” she said. “I’m going to catch every single ball helping out. I’m going to practice my bunting. I’m going to try to be the best player even though I can’t play. I definitely want to be back. I want the feeling of going to bat for the last time. The best feeling is going into the batter’s box.”
“She doesn’t take anything for granted,” Barber said. “She sets her goals, sets her mind to it to reach her goal.”
When Lewis heads to Vanguard, it may be the first time the twins have been separated.
“It’s going to be hard, at first, because she braids my hair for sports,” Lewis said. “We always joke around and talk to each other. We have our own language. I think it will make us even closer. She is trying to go to school for soccer. She’s talking to a school on the East Coast. She will be far away, unfortunately.”
However, because she is in Southern California, it will be a closer trip for her parents.
“They like me being in California,” Lewis said. “Sometimes they can watch my games.”