The Brantley Machine: Johnson’s record-breaking career comes to a close

Published 12:09 pm Thursday, May 25, 2023

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The term “GOAT” – greatest of all time – gets tossed around a lot in today’s sports world and in the history of Troy University Softball very few pitchers have as much of claim to that title than Leanna Johnson.

“The Machine,” as she’s come to be known, ended her collegiate career earlier this month as Troy’s all-time winningest pitcher.

“It was awesome,” Johnson said of becoming Troy’s all-time wins leader. “I didn’t know I was that close to it, honestly, but it was an awesome thing to have my name in the record book like that and for it to be at Troy. I love Troy, it’s a super close-knit community a lot like Brantley is. I really just love representing everyone here and it was exciting, surreal and something I will remember forever.”

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Johnson’s success is hard to ignore. She’s a four-time All-Sun Belt pitcher, three-time All-South Regional and earned 2019 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year. Along with becoming Troy’s all-time wins leader, she became just the second Trojan in school history to reach 1,000 career strikeouts. In the Troy record book she ranks first in wins (101), second in strikeouts (1,058), 10th in ERA (1.98), second in appearances (174), second in complete games (89), first in shutouts (35), second in saves (10) and second in innings pitched (689). She also ranks in the Top 10 in virtually every pitching category in a season and single game. Johnson was also a part of a Trojan team that made it to the NCAA Regional Tournament for just the second time in school history.

While Johnson appreciates all the records and accolades, she said that she would most remember her time with teammates.

Leanna Johnson struck out 10 Alabama State batters. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)

“Whenever we got that regional bid, that was a great experience,” Johnson said of her favorite Troy memories. “All the road trips with my teammates and getting creative trying to make those road trips somewhat fun are some of my favorite memories. Also, one of my favorite memories from this year was definitely when we walked it off against Louisiana in the seventh (inning) to win that first game in the series. It was really fun. Just sharing that moment with all my teammates was really awesome.”

When Johnson came to Troy she was already a highly decorated softball player. In high school, she was a part of a Brantley program that won four state championships during her career and she was a three-time Class 1A Player of the Year, 2018 ASWA Player of the Year, 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year and 2018 Miss Softball. She also holds numerous records at her high school. Johnson said her time at Brantley prepared her for success at Troy and she expected that level of success.

“I have very high expectations for myself and the way Brantley went about sports, we care a lot about athletics there, prepared me,” she recalled. “We worked hard and I just wanted that to transition into college ball and I think it paid off for me to have those high expectations for myself. The expectations at Brantley made for an easy transition and I just put my head down and went to work and had fun doing it.”

Johnson said that the relationships she built at Troy will be what mean the most to her moving forward.

“I know the relationships I made with my teammates will be in my life forever,” she emphasized. “We’re really close with each other and I keep up with the others that have already graduated, too. I think this year was the best way to go out. I was able to mend some relationships with some people and we had a blast this season. The relationships I made with my coaches this year has also been tremendous. They are some really awesome people and coaches and they were fun to play for.”

Johnson said that Troy Softball is in good hands moving forward.

“I think it’s going to do nothing but go up from here,” Johnson said of the softball program. “Coach (Eric) Newell and his assistants have a vision for this program, for it to be one of the best in the Sun Belt, and I know they are going to do whatever they can to get the right players here to represent that ‘T’ and be a winning program.”

While there aren’t as many professional options for softball players as there are for baseball players, there are some options. Still, Johnson has decided to move on from her playing days.

“I’ve given it some thought and I had to make a tough decision regarding this summer and I’m just really proud and happy with where my career ended at Troy,” she said. “I think that’s where I want to keep it and start working to a different career and getting serious about that.”

Johnson, a graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, is already setting her sights to the future.

“At the moment, I’m doing pitching lessons and working some camps and I’ll do a little bit of travel ball here and there this summer,” she said. “Hopefully, something will work out where I’ll stay around Troy for awhile. I really want to stay around the game. I would love to be a pitching coach somewhere.

“If not, I still want to teach softball and give back to the game that has given me so much. I just want to stick around the game and be a good influence for the younger generations.”