USA softball: Three with Tucson ties named to national team

2011-06-18T00:00:00Z 2011-06-18T00:17:37Z USA softball: Three with Tucson ties named to national teamBy Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 18, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Molly Johnson checked her phone the second her flight touched down in Houston.

The USA Softball Women's National Team roster had been emailed.

The Sabino High School graduate was on the list.

"Seeing your name," she said, "it sends chills down my spine."

Johnson was one of three with Tucson ties on the roster, which was announced Friday.

Jenae Leles, who starred at the UA from 2006 to 2009, made the 17-player team.

Tairia Flowers, a Salpointe Catholic graduate, will serve as an assistant coach.

Johnson, an infielder, was curious about her performance at the tryout camp earlier this month in Chula Vista, Calif.

After setting Kentucky's all-time home run and batting average records, she spent the last season as a UK assistant coach.

"I was pretty excited. I'd been off for a little while," she said. "It's kinda like riding a bike. Once you start getting into the groove, it feels good."

To make the team, Leles, who hit 57 collegiate home runs, beat out current UA third baseman Brigette Del Ponte.

Flowers won a national title while playing at UCLA and played on two Olympic teams before retiring after the 2008 Games. She is the head coach at Cal State-Northridge.

Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts, who shut down the UA in this year's NCAA tournament, made the squad. So did Arizona State alum Kaitlin Cochran.

The national team will play exhibitions starting next week before participating in July in the Canadian Open Fast Pitch International Championship and the World Cup of Softball.

The squad will travel to Mexico for the Pan American Games in October.

"It's really important that we can continue with the national team," Johnson said. "The more exposure we have, the better shot we have of getting it back into the Olympics."

Johnson's Kentucky players spent Friday texting her their congratulations.

"I think they are as excited as I am," she said. "They'll be able to see me on TV."

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