St. Paul's Johnson has right stuff

Freshman pitcher controls top-ranked Mt. St. Joe, 3-1

Baseball

High Schools

April 18, 2002|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Steve Johnson is a name you're going to read and hear a lot about over the next four years on the high school baseball scene if yesterday was any indication.

Johnson, a freshman right-hander and 14-year-old son of former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson, pitched No. 5 St. Paul's to a 3-1 upset of top-ranked Mount St. Joseph.

In dealing the Gaels (11-4, 8-1 league) their first loss in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, Johnson gave up only three hits, walked one, struck out three and picked two runners off second base.

The picked-off runners had singled in the second and fifth innings. Johnson uses the same nifty shift and throw to second that his father, who proudly looked on yesterday, was known for while pitching in the big leagues.

Making his first A Conference start after winning two nonleague games for the Crusaders (14-5, 5-4), Johnson needed only 72 pitches in a fine performance exceeded only by his uncanny poise for a ninth-grader.

"I know him well, coached against him in summer ball and know he's always around the plate," said coach Dave Norton, whose Gaels swung early in the count, with Johnson going to three balls just once, in his walk.

"He kept our guys off balance and I think our guys were a little impatient trying to crush him because he's a freshman. He did a great job."

The 6-foot Johnson had total command of three pitches - a fast ball in the low 80s, curve and changeup - to best Mount St. Joseph ace Joe Peeler (4-1), who shut out the Crusaders, 10-0, last week.

"I think maybe they took us a little lightly, beating us 10-0, and Steven did a great job," said St. Paul's coach Paul Bernsdorf.

"You don't expect that from a freshman, but he's so far above what you usually get from a freshman. He's going to be a great player. And he had two hits, too.

Johnson found out last Thursday that he was going to pitch yesterday's game.

"I was a little surprised when I found out I was going against the top team," said Johnson, who despite his age is no stranger to big games. He pitched his dad's 13-and-under summer team, the Harford Sox, to two national tournament titles in the same season.

"It was just like any other game once I got out there, the younger," Johnson said. "Throw strikes, change speeds, make them hit the ball. My team made all the plays behind me."

Johnson committed the team's only error on a pickoff attempt in the fifth; his team's defense was near-flawless, especially slick-fielding shortstop Tom Hermann.

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