St. Helena pitching whiz set to enter SC Softball Hall of Fame

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comOctober 17, 2013 

M.A. Evans Johnson stands for a portrait at the Basil Green baseball and softball field on Tuesday afternoon in Beaufort. Johnson will be inducted into the USSSA South Carolina Hall of Fame on Oct. 26 in Columbia.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Mary Ann Evans Johnson didn't believe the caller earlier this year when he asked her ring size.

"I thought it was a hoax," Johnson said. "I said 'I'm sorry, but I'm already married.' "

Johnson was told she would be inducted into the United States Specialty Sport Association South Carolina Softball Hall of Fame. The St. Helena resident then called her longtime coach, Speedy Grice, to confirm she had been selected and that there was no joke.

Johnson will be recognized along with four other inductees during a dinner in Columbia on Oct. 26.

The 59-year-old Johnson played adult slow pitch softball 15 years under the USSSA, and more for other area teams and for the local recreation league, which disbanded in 2009. She started playing in 1978, six years after graduating from Beaufort High School. Her final season was 2011.

"If there was still a league, she would probably still be playing," said John Miller, the former Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services director for northern Beaufort County and a softball coach for more than 20 years in his department's adult league.

For her USSSA teams, which played 100 games each year during weekend tournaments, Johnson was the only pitcher.

She finished 89-11 during her best season in 1985, Grice said, when the team won state and world championships.

Grice, a Walterboro resident, recruited Johnson to join his team during a trip to Beaufort. Johnson had started as a catcher but moved to pitcher when no one else was available.

Grice, now the USSSA women's coordinator in South Carolina, nominated Johnson for her induction before she was selected by a committee.

"She was the only pitcher that we had; we lived and died by her," he said. "She threw strikes. She walked very few people."

Johnson said she became known for working fast in the circle.

"Once they put that second foot in that box, that was it," she said.

Johnson said her hall-of-fame nod was probably due in part to staying committed to the sport so long. According to a timeline she provided, Johnson won 587 games and competed on USSSA state championship teams in 1985, 1986, 1989, 2001 and 2002, won a world championship in 1985, and 35-and-older world championships in 2000 and 2002.

"I loved the game," she said.

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