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Anne Photograp News 2024

Loyola bound Abby Johnson leads the way for Providence
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Loyola bound Abby Johnson leads the way for Providence

Abby Johnson of Providence grew up on the travel softball circuit and always played shortstop.

That was her main position.

So imagine her surprise when, as a freshman for the Celtics, she was moved to right field, a position she had never played before. And she vividly remembered her first varsity game.

“We were playing Romeoville, and it was rainy and super cold,” Johnson remembers. “I was so nervous, I was shaking on my plate. I was a freshman playing with girls older than me.

“I got hit. I held my ground. I did well.”

Johnson, a Loyola commit, has done a lot since returning to shortstop as a sophomore. Now as a senior, she is having a “remarkable year” at the position, coach Jim Holba said.

“She anticipates extremely well,” Holba said. “She’s comfortable calling bunt defenses. She has soft hands when she gets ground balls and a quick release. She can get up in the middle and dive with her backhand.”

Not only does Johnson enjoy playing shortstop for GCAC Red leader Providence (16-6, 9-3), she also enjoys talking about it. What is required to play the position effectively?

Let her count the ways.

Providence's Abby Johnson (6) hits the ball during a game against St. Laurence in New Lenox on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Daily Southtown)
Providence’s Abby Johnson (6) connects against St. Laurence during a GCAC Red game in New Lenox on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

“Important things are learning to read the hop, keeping your feet moving, and you want to keep the movement flowing throughout your throw,” she said. “There are also certain angles on ground balls.”

Senior second baseman Sophia Thormeyer, her doubles counterpart, said success between the duo has increased thanks to a strong focus on communication.

“We’re always talking,” Thormeyer said. “And from that connection we have grown that bond in the middle. We are a great battery to work together.”

Johnson can also hit. Holba said when she’s on a roll, she can hit both power and average. An astute puncher, she is also responsible for more than 15 stolen bases per season.

Life is full of coincidences, and Johnson’s is unique. The last Division I shortstop the Celtics had was Teagan Sopczak, who graduated the year before Johnson entered high school.

Providence's Abby Johnson (6) hits the ball during a game against Andrew on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Daily Southtown)
Providence’s Abby Johnson (6) connects with Andrew during a non-conference game at Tinley Park on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

Sopczak went on to play at Loyola and Johnson eventually replaced her at Providence. Sopczak, in turn, will soon graduate from Loyola and Johnson will take her place on the roster.

Funny how life works sometimes. The two know each other through friends, and Sopczak even played the role of advisor to some extent during Johnson’s recruiting process.

“I saw her at camps at Loyola and we talked about what happened in high school,” Johnson said. “I could contact her if I had questions about Loyola. She said the girls were great, and I saw that when I met them all.

The recruitment process was a bundle of emotions. It all depended on the day, it seemed.

“At first I was super excited to hear from coaches and go to camps,” she said. “But as time went on, I got close to making a decision and didn’t want to hear from the coaches anymore, and that was disheartening.”

Providence's Abby Johnson (6) throws to first base during a game against St. Laurence in New Lenox on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Daily Southtown)
Providence’s Abby Johnson (6) throws to first base against St. Laurence during a GCAC Red game in New Lenox on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

Here’s another coincidence. While Johnson will suit up for Loyola, Thormeyer will do the same for UMass. Both teams play in the Atlantic 10.

It’s going to be something else playing against a good high school teammate in college.

“It’s going to be very weird but exciting,” Thormeyer said. “I can’t wait to see how far we grow and how better athletes we become.”

That said, Thormeyer knows the type of player the Ramblers will have in Johnson.

“Loyola is getting a very dedicated, enthusiastic and prepared athlete,” Thormeyer said. “She will be a great addition to their team.”

Gregg Voss is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.