SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — Blake Johnson saved the best pitching performances of his senior year at Jefferson for the Class AAA, Region II, Section 1 tournament. Last Thursday, he solved the Washington High bats as he got the win in relief for the Cougars in the first game of the best-of-three event.
[cleeng_content id="945234303" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]On Saturday, he was back with one day of rest after the Patriots had punished three Jefferson pitchers on Friday to even the series.
At first, Johnson stalled the Patriot offense. And then didn’t allow any hits over the final four innings of Jefferson’s, 4-0, shutout win that propelled the Cougars into the Regional tournament.
Even though he rarely got ahead in the count against the Washington roster, he got a significant number of outs with 3-1 and 3-2 counts on batters.
The right-hander completed his shutout with five strikeouts while walking four and hitting a batter. The previously mistake-prone Jefferson defense committed only one error behind Johnson and that was after the Cougars already led, 4-0.
In his earlier appearance in the tournament, Johnson had yielded only two hits in 3.1 shutout innings when he was credited with the win that pushed the Cougars into the driver’s seat of the double-elimination event.
For two innings, Jefferson had no luck against Washington starter Dorian Hetzel. Hetzel retired the first six men he saw.
But in the Jefferson third it was three walks and Andrew King’s two-RBI single with two outs that jumped the Cougars into a 3-0 lead. Two of Jefferson’s three singles in the game came in the three-run second.
King was 7-for-10 in the three-game set, and played on Saturday after leaving Friday’s game when a hot-shot grounder caromed off his glove and hit him flush in the face.
When he got the 3-0 lead, Johnson did not allow a hit over the last four innings. The last out recorded was fitting enough. Johnson speared Colin Gustines one-hopper back at him and threw the Patriot leadoff man out at first.
With just Sunday off, the Cougars went to the Regional semifinals on Monday against well-rested Hedgesville, the winner of Section 2 for the first time in 33 years.
Johnson had gone 2-0 in the Sectional, but he would be a spectator for the Regional opener while the Eagles had Cody Butts, their winningest pitcher, ready on adequate rest.
Jefferson’s Sectional had been largely a Johnson & Johnson event in the two games the Cougars won to move their record to 22-12.[/cleeng_content]