Chasity Johnson's introduction to varsity action for the Sioux City East softball team was not a normal one. She wasn't even technically in high school yet.
With the Black Raiders needing some pitching help back in the 2015 season, Johnson was called on to start as an eighth-grader for East.
In her first start against Lewis Central, Johnson went all seven innings, allowing only one run on five hits, walking two and striking out two.
Johnson, this week's Journal Metro Athlete of the Week, earned the top spot in the circle for the Black Raiders as a freshman, starting 23 games and pitching 144 innings. She finished with a 3.50 earned run average.
"It was really scary. Being an eighth-grader on the field isn't common, especially since the whole team was full of juniors and seniors," Johnson said. "But they made it really easy to be an eighth-grader on the team and the coaches were motivating me. I was lucky enough to be given the chance."
East head coach Michael Crawford had no hesitation calling up Johnson, who will pitch for Briar Cliff next season, to start for the team as an eighth-grader.
"She came in and she was almost ready to go," Crawford said. "Her hard work and dedication and just the willingness to learn that position and all of the things that go along with it are just outstanding."
Johnson has never let go of that spot in the circle, either. She started 92 games from her freshman to her junior season and she's started six of the Black Raiders seven games this season.
She had two big games this past weekend at the West tournament.
The Black Raiders faced two ranked opponents on Saturday: West Monona (No. 4 in Class 2A) and Westwood (No. 7 in Class 1A). Against West Monona, Johnson went all seven innings, giving up only five hits, allowing no walks and striking out two in a 1-0 shutout victory. Then against Westwood, Johnson went 3 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits, walking none and striking out two.
East improved to 6-2 overall with those two victories.
Crawford said Johnson pitched those games like she would any other.
"She really plays the sport and her position one pitch at a time. That's the way she goes about it with her presence on the mound," Crawford said. "It doesn't matter if they are a rated team or not. Those two teams are really good teams. We expect both of them to make a run at state this year."
Johnson said she thought those were two big wins for the team.
"I think those were two of the more important wins that we are going to have this year and are the driving force for us," Johnson said. "The girls were super excited and I was so into it. After last year, I didn't know what this year would be but this will be an even bigger year and I can see it in two games with those kids."
Last season was the first losing season Johnson experienced and she's the only senior on the team this season, a change from when she was surrounded by upperclassmen as an eighth-grader. So Johnson didn't quite know what to expect.
But the younger squad and the way the Black Raiders have played has motivated Johnson.
"It makes me want to teach them and love the game," Johnson said. "I love to play the game and it's the younger team that I have behind me now that motivates me. They love to be out there and that makes me want to be out there and win more games."
Crawford said Johnson has become an excellent teacher for the young squad, too.
"It was a natural transition for her. She's filled that leadership role for us," Crawford said. "She has helped the younger pitchers tremendously. It's fun in the winter months to see her demonstrate a technique to the younger kids. She's not only worked with our pitchers but with future East Black Raider pitchers."
Now Johnson wants to continue the momentum from this past weekend going.
"I am just really excited for the season," Johnson said. "All of the girls are awesome and my coaches are more excited than I have seen them before. He's really excited and I am excited to see what we can do for him."
Ellie Gengler, Bishop Heelan - She had three goals an assist in a regional win over West Sioux and had a goal and two assists in a regional win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
Spencer Kleene, Sergeant Bluff-Luton - Kleene hit a home run and finished six RBIs in a win over Spirit Lake on Saturday. He leads the Warriors with 13 RBIs and is batting .481 on the season.