HARWICH ---- Pierce Johnson (Missouri State) leads the Mariners pitching staff with two wins, and is working his way up the list of league leaders in strikeouts, thanks to his command on the mound and his persona.
Johnson has thrown 18 innings, allowing less than a hit per inning, and striking out 20. His 0.50 ERA is bested on the team only by relievers Matty Ott (LSU) and Clint Moore (West Point), who combined have pitched less than half the innings. Johnson has the lowest ERA amongst the league’s strikeout leaders.
He pitched a strong seven innings against Falmouth in his previous outing, giving up only four hits, walking none, and striking out 10 in his best appearance of the season. The Commodores eventually won the 12-inning pitchers’ duel on a two-out bases-loaded wild pitch.
“I felt great when I came out,” Johnson said. “My arm was good, my arm was fresh. I prepared a lot. I have a buddy on the team and knew they had good hitters, so I had to come out with my best stuff.”
His first appearance and win against the Y-D Red Sox on June 18 included five innings with one run, seven hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. He followed that against the Chatham As by allowing one run on five hits, with seven strikeouts in six innings, picking up another victory. Despite a non-decision at Falmouth, he continues improving.
“I think it just continues a pretty consistent trend that he’s had, throwing the baseball really well in the first few weeks of the season,” Mariners assistant coach Ryan Parker said. “His ability to just pay attention and incorporate some things that he’s hearing from teammates and coaches into his daily routine has enabled him to get better.”
Notable in Johnson’s improvement has been his increased aggressiveness in attacking the strike zone, thanks to hard work and to his mentality.
“It’s just that relaxed confidence I think that he comes to the ballpark with every day,” Parker said. “He seems unfazed on the mound in times of pressure. He just responds by slowing the game down and making the pitch, and ultimately that’s what it’s about.”
“I was having trouble with control this spring and Coach Parker and I have been working on that,” said Johnson, who also credited his defense in helping him maintain his confidence. “It’s the best team I’ve ever played for. The defense is amazing. We’ve got the best of the best.”
As for his part on the team, he said, “Make every pitch count. You can’t let any pitch go to waste.”