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Tom Mix, Published September 20 2012

Familiarity wins out: North’s Johnson commits to join NDSU's softball team

FARGO – Fargo North senior Courtney Johnson is going to add a little local flavor to the North Dakota State softball roster next year.

Johnson, a Class A all-state selection last spring, has decided to take her talents to NDSU and is the first North Dakota softball player to commit to an NCAA Division I program.

“For me it is a big deal to be the first girl from North Dakota to play Division I softball,” said Johnson, who also plays volleyball and basketball for the Spartans. “I have had to sacrifice a lot. I would travel to Minneapolis for a tournament and usually stay by myself, so it is a relief that all my hard work paid off.”

Johnson helped the Spartans to an 18-10 record last spring and a second-place finish in the Eastern Dakota Conference. North finished fourth at the state tournament.

The left-handed, slap-hitting outfielder also considered the University of North Dakota and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Johnson’s familiarity with the Bison was what helped NDSU win out.

“They have a really good program and a winning personality,” Johnson said. “I have been to a lot of their camps and the coaches are incredibly nice. They are like a family.

“I wanted to stay in North Dakota and contribute to their team. It is a blessing to go there.”

In addition to playing for North, Johnson has spent the last two summers playing for the Minnesota Irish, an elite summer club team that has qualified for the national tournament the last two years.

Johnson also will be the first Fargo-Moorhead recruit to play for the Bison since the school transitioned all of its athletic programs to Division I in 2003.

Bison head coach Darren Mueller said he couldn’t recall any players from the Fargo area playing for the Bison in his 12 years as head coach.

“I don’t think any that I have coached,” Mueller said. “I know some a long time ago that played here. When I first started there were a couple North Dakota kids on the team a long, long time ago.”

Softball has only been a sanctioned sport the last four years in North Dakota, but is growing in popularity with the creation of the Class B division.

Mueller said he actively recruits North Dakota, but there are some limitations.

“Obviously, you take a look,” Mueller said. “Since they don’t play as many tournaments, we don’t get out as much. We go to the bigger tournaments.

“We don’t go to high school games as much because we go to summer tournament games. High school games tougher to get to with our travel schedule.”

NDSU has qualified for the NCAA tournament the last four seasons and have won two Summit League regular-season championships.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack contributed to this story