Five Years Together Have Anderson, Johnson On Brink Of Title With Thunderbirds

Chautauqua Lake hurler Olivia Anderson will look to cap off a brilliant junior season this weekend. P-J file photo

MAYVILLE — Called up together to the varsity team in seventh grade, Chautauqua Lake’s Olivia Anderson and Chadelynn Johnson have been dreaming of this weekend.

Saturday it will become a reality.

The Thunderbirds will take on Section II champion Greenville at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C softball semifinals at Moreau Recreational Park in South Glens Falls.

The winner will face the winner of Section IX champion Pine Plains and Section III champion Sandy Creek at 4 p.m. for the Class C title.

Chautauqua Lake likely would never have gotten this far without its junior battery.

Catcher Chadelynn Johnson has been rock solid behind the plate this season for the Thunderbirds. P-J file photo

Anderson, the right-handed ace pitcher, went 14-2 in Section VI play this spring with a 1.53 earned run average while striking out 176 batters in 105 1/3 innings pitched in the circle. She allowed 78 hits, walked 29 and hit three batters while giving up just 23 earned runs.

“I reminded them that in seventh grade we talked about their work ethic. Over the past five years they definitely have been the workhorses of our team,” head coach Sue Teets said of Anderson and Johnson. “They are the ones that get out there and show the girls what we need to do to get it done.”

Working with Anderson for the past five years, Johnson has created a bond with her pitcher which coaches can only dream about.

“It’s been the greatest thing ever,” Anderson said of playing with Johnson. “I couldn’t have asked for a better catcher. We have a great bond. It’s been great to go through this journey with her since seventh grade.”

Johnson has not made an error all season while picking up 10 assists and developing into one of — if not the best — pitch blockers in the area.

“I started working with Chay probably in third grade when she was our manager,” Teets said. “I told her, ‘I was a catcher. Your job is to make the pitcher look good. You will not get accolades and glory.’ … She doesn’t let anything get by and she does a great job back there.”

“When I got here they were pretty fundamentally sound,” assistant coach Mike Torrance added. “Chay’s good at blocking and she knows the game. Olivia knows the game. It’s nice to come over and see these kids do that.”

While the battery has been the key to the Thunderbirds’ success, the team still has to score runs – and has it ever.

Chautauqua Lake’s offense put up 139 runs in 16 sectional games this season while hitting for a .352 average.

The lineup is led by junior third baseman Cianna Braymiller, who has hit an astounding .577 with six home runs, five doubles, five triples and 34 RBIs to go along with 23 runs scored.

“This year that has just been a huge change. A lot of it is her mentality,” Teets said. “She is driven. I think sometimes when it gets to junior year they start thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I only have two years left,’ and they really start to focus.”

“She has really picked it up,” Torrance added. “It’s not just hitting .500 or .600. She just smashes that ball. She has so much power to her. It’s fun to watch.”

“I would be terrified to pitch against her,” Anderson joked. “When I see her up in the box I have full confidence in her that she is going to get on base or bomb one over the fence.”

Anderson and Johnson have done their fair share at the plate too.

The ace pitcher is hitting .458 with a home run, eight doubles, three triples and 19 RBIs as well as 19 runs scored.

Her catcher is hitting .373 with eight doubles, three triples, a home run and 13 RBIs to go along with 21 runs scored.

“She has poured it on,” Teets said. “I moved her up to the leadoff spot midway through our season and she has definitely taken off. … We need somebody to get on base in that first spot.”

Junior center fielder Kendra Keyser is hitting .429 with a home run, 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored while the team’s lone senior, shortstop Cameryn Hawkins, is hitting .351 with six doubles, a triple and three home runs to go along with 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored.

“She has been one of the key factors bringing us together,” Anderson said of Hawkins. “She’s my best friend and she’s been here with me for a long time.”

“She is just one of those that is an all-around good athlete and good role model with character and leadership,” Teets added about Hawkins. “She’s always picking everybody up. … She is just one of those kids that every coach would want on their team. … I love that girl.”

While the Thunderbirds can take one glance at their roster and realize that five of their major players are juniors and think they can just as easily make it back to the Final Four next spring, that isn’t always the case.

“I said from the start of this season, ‘This is our year,'” Teets said. “That (Class C crossover) loss to Portville last season really left a bad taste in our mouths. It hurt. I said ‘this year we are going to make everything count.'”

“We’re so honored just to be able to go this year,” Anderson said. “We have next year, but right now we want to win so bad.”

NOTES: The Thunderbirds left Mayville at 11 a.m. Thursday with a sendoff from the school. They are scheduled to practice at 1 p.m. today in South Glens Falls.