Former Diamond Jack Dan Johnson is the Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Week.
Being robbed of a full baseball season last spring left ball players throughout the nation hungry for that game-day feeling and the unquenchable competitive thirst that comes with it.
Former Diamond Jack Dan Johnson, now a sophomore at Scranton University, certainly felt the anguish of a lost season as he was beginning his freshman campaign of college in 2020.
“It took a toll on everyone, for sure,” said Johnson. “Not being able to play live games was hard. We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity.”
Johnson exorcised some of those pandemic demons on Saturday when he stifled Moravian College on three hits over five shutout innings, struck out two and walked one as the Royals rolled to a 4-0 victory. The win gave Scranton a split of the doubleheader. It was Johnson’s first start of the season and he was rewarded for his efforts with the Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Week honor.
“I was seeing the zone very well,” said Johnson. “I walked the second batter of the game but, from that point, I focused on hitting spots and stayed away from walks. My teammates made all the plays behind me.”
Johnson relies upon the deceptive combination of a two-seam fastball and slider to get outs. “My two-seamer acts like a changeup because the velo drops and the pitch falls off,” says Johnson. “Both were good on Saturday.”
One of those teammates that was so supportive of Johnson on Saturday was junior right fielder, Kevin Johnson, Dan’s older brother. Kevin Johnson went 1-for-3 in the game and singled, stole second and scored a run in the sixth inning to extend the Scranton lead to 4-0.
“It’s definitely a great experience playing with my brother,” said Dan, “especially since we didn’t play together in high school. “He prides himself on making consistent contact and is always on base.”
The righty Johnson has made two appearances this spring and is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA over 7.1 innings. He has struck out three and walked two while permitting just one earned run. Dan played his high school ball at Immaculata, which plays its home games at Diamond Nation in Flemington. Kevin Johnson played at nearby Hunterdon Central and was an integral part of the Red Devil’s run to the 2016 NJSIAA Group 4 championship his junior year.
Dan was the starting pitcher in Immaculata’s wild 2019 Somerset County Tournament championship game victory over Ridge. Immaculata prevailed, 6-5, in a tense 12-inning affair in which Johnson went 3-for-4, delivered a three-run triple in the fourth inning and drew a walk in the decisive 12th inning rally.
“It’s always great to see one of our guys succeed at the collegiate level,” said Johnson’s high school coach Kevin Cust. “We got Dan some varsity experience his sophomore year at Immaculata and he just took it and ran with it.”
Cust pointed out a performance Johnson’s senior year that assured him he could pitch in college. “He beat Hun, which was one of the best teams in the state. He shut them down,” said Cust. “That two-seamer was giving them a lot of trouble. I knew when Scranton felt get comfortable using him as a starter, Dan would flourish.”
Johnson’s next start is Saturday at Drew University. He’ll again start Game 2 of the doubleheader.