Gamecock great Trinity Johnson throws out first pitch
When Ray Tanner came to South Carolina to coach the baseball team in 1997, the Gamecocks already had an ace on campus. Unfortunately for Tanner, she was pitching for the softball team.
Trinity Johnson was named the sport’s national player of the year that season and led South Carolina to the College World Series. On Saturday, Tanner, now the school’s athletics director, and the Gamecocks retired Johnson’s jersey at the Carolina Softball Stadium.
“Trinity is one of my first memories at the University of South Carolina,” Tanner said. “In the spring of 1997, they were rolling. They were packing them in. They were 10 deep in the outfield to watch Trinity throw shutouts. She was awesome. I don’t know if she pitched every inning that year, but it seemed like it. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I have a long ways to go in baseball.’ She was big time.”
Johnson, who played for the Gamecocks from 1995-97, is the first USC softball player to have her jersey retired.
“I just keep using the word ‘honored,’ and that’s such a cop-out, but it is,” Johnson said. “It’s such an honor to be the first of hopefully many.”
The Gamecocks will retire the jerseys of track and field stars Terrance Trammell and Miki Barber and baseball pitching great Earl Bass later this year.
“I read an article that talked about the athletes being honored and I felt like such small potatoes when I read all their stats,” Johnson said. “The honor of being grouped with these elite people is crazy.”
Johnson was just as elite during the 1997 season. She was an All-American and the unanimous SEC player of the year after recording a 0.38 ERA (0.00 in SEC play) and a 34-4 record. She had 24 shutouts and three perfect games in that stretch, recording 12 straight shutouts at one point in the season. She finished her career as a three-time All-American with 1,032 strikeouts.
Johnson played with the U.S. national team and one year of professional softball before shoulder surgery ended her career. Saturday’s honor helps ease the sting of that premature ending, she said.
“It’s always wonderful coming back and being recognized by people who have been in the stands for 25 years,” said Johnson, who is now a sonographer in Memphis, Tennessee.
The crowd at Saturday’s game against Alabama was 2,156, the second-highest in program history and highest since Johnson’s senior season in 1997.
#2 Sterling Sharpe (1983, 85-87)
#37 Steve Wadiak (1948-51)
#38 George Rogers (1977-80)
#56 Mike Johnson (1964)
#3 BJ McKie (1996-99)
#11 John Roche (1968-71)
#22 Alex English (1972-76)
#42 Grady Wallace (1955-57)
#43 Kevin Joyce (1970-71)
#13 Martha Parker (1985-89)
#14 Shannon Johnson (1992-96)
#53 Sheila Foster (1978-82)
#1 Ray Tanner (1997-2012)
#11 Trinity Johnson (1995-97)