Key's Johnson hitting stride

April 17, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

It seems that Francis Scott Key middle infielder Dave Johnson can do no wrong these days.

He's batting .474, has been moved into the No. 3 hitting position by coach Bob Caples, steals bases and plays superb defense at second base or shortstop.

Johnson (5-foot-9, 141 pounds) is doing all he can to help the Eagles live up to early-season expectations.

But it hasn't been easy with most of the other Key players off to sluggish starts.

"Dave Johnson and Dan Stephenson [pitcher and cleanup hitter] are carrying us," said Caples, whose team is off to a disappointing 2-4 start. "Dave is also doing the job defensively for us and working real hard. I moved him to third in the lineup from the leadoff position in hopes he can drive in some runs for us."

In his first at-bat from the No. 3 spot last Tuesday against %J Middletown, Johnson singled in a run in the first inning, stole second and scored, and singled again in the third inning and stole second.

Key led 2-1 after two innings, but Middletown scored four runs in the third and five in the fourth on the way to an 11-3 victory.

"We made a lot of mental errors in that game and our pitching wasn't what it had been earlier in the season," said Johnson. "If we could get one more hitter going, we'd be OK. We were picked to do well but we're not getting the clutch hitting."

All this success as a junior has followed a dream-like summer of 1993 for Johnson, who played for the Carroll County Rangers in the Baltimore Metro League.

Johnson hit over .400 and hit four home runs for the Rangers last summer and was chosen to the Metro League All-Stars, who played Harbor Federal at Memorial Stadium in a memorial game for the late Sheriff Fowble.

In his first at-bat in the game, Johnson hit a two-run triple down the right-field line and was chosen the co-Most Valuable Player in the game.

"That was my biggest thrill in baseball," said Johnson, who is a right-handed hitter. "The triple almost landed in the air on the warning track. It was a great week. We got to practice all week at Memorial Stadium before we played the game."

Johnson said he hopes to be good enough to play at a top-flight Division I college, such as the University of Miami (Fla.).

"My ultimate dream is to play professional baseball," he said.

"But first I'd love to play at Miami but I'm not sure that will happen."

NB Caples and Johnson credited his high-school success to playing

for the Rangers in the outstanding Metro League.

"I played in Taneytown from the time I was 8 until I was 13," he said. "I realized then that I was not improving because the competition wasn't that great. So I got hooked up with the Rangers through George Little and George Hancock and I'm ready for my third season with them this year."

Johnson and the Rangers both fared well last summer, with the Rangers finishing second in their division and going on to win the state 15-16 championship.

The rewards were trips to Schenectady, N.Y., for the 15-16 regionals and to the Great Smokey Mountains (Tenn.) for an invitational tournament.

The Rangers finished second in the regionals but won the Great Smokey Mountains tournament.

Johnson also has hopes of being part of a Francis Scott Key baseball team that makes the 1A state regionals and advances to the state final four.

The Eagles were eliminated by Brunswick in the regionals last season in Johnson's sophomore year.

"I started every game and hit .310 last season," he said. "I guess I'm not surprised that I've hit pretty good in high school since I was used to being a top hitter on my team in Little League. It's just that I'm not a vocal leader on any team. I lead by example."

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