Johnson makes presence felt quickly
Gator makes return after being hit in head in SEC tourney
OMAHA, Neb. – When Florida designated hitter Brian Johnson was hit in the head by a throw while pitching in the SEC Tournament May 28, no one knew when he’d be back on the field.
Johnson missed the Gainesville Regional and Super Regional with concussion-like symptoms, but Saturday the sophomore returned to the Gators' lineup against Texas.
And he made Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan remember what he was missing.
Johnson was involved in the first ground rules debate at TD Ameritrade Park when he laced what appeared to be a home run to right center in the seventh inning, but was ruled by the umpires to be a two-run double instead.
“The batted ball in the bottom of the seventh inning was mistakenly ruled in play rather than a home run that did clear the yellow line of the outfield fence [the ball must completely clear the yellow line, not hit on the yellow line to be called a home run],” read a statement from the NCAA Umpire Coordinator Gene McArtor. “The umpires did and are allowed to conference to determine if any others of the crew had different information, which they did not. The umpires do not have the ability for video review.”
Nonetheless, Johnson finished 1 for 4 with two RBIs against one of the best pitching staffs in the nation.
“[Coach O’Sullivan] talked to me before the at bat,” Johnson said. “He knew it was going to be a big at bat for the game, and I looked for one pitch I could drive and I ended up getting that pitch. I was really excited to get back out there after three weeks of not playing. After my first at bat went by it didn’t even seem like it happened … I was really excited to get back out there.”
Zero to Three: Before the Austin Regional, Taylor Jungmann hadn’t lost a game in 2011, but his setback to Florida Saturday at the CWS gives him three consecutive following losses to Kent State and Arizona State the last two weeks.
So what’s wrong with the No. 12 overall pick in last week’s MLB Draft?
“I wouldn’t say physically, but I think mechanically some things have been going wrong lately,” Jungmann said. “We’ve worked on it in bullpen [sessions]. If you fall behind in counts like I did today then a good hitting team will take advantage of it. They’re a good hitting team, so obviously they took advantage of it."
Jungmann allowed five runs, four earned, in 4.1 innings to fall to 13-3 in 2011. His four walks, including two to start the third inning, was the downfall Saturday for the 6-foot-6 righthander.
“I don’t know if it was the long inning when [Texas] scored three, but he walked two guys in a row,” O’Sullivan said. “Sometimes that happens. It’s just one of those things. We put together some quality at-bats. He’s got a good arm and we took advantage of a couple of walks that inning.”
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Not Themselves: The starting pitchers for Vanderbilt and North Carolina came into Saturday’s game rolling. Both Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray and North Carolina’s Patrick Johnson struggled in the first game of the 2011 College World Series.
Gray went just 4.2 innings, his shortest outing since his 2011 debut against San Diego on Feb. 18. The junior had pitched at least six innings in last 10 starts before Saturday’s start against North Carolina. Gray allowed eight hits against the Tar Heels, when in his two previous NCAA tournament starts, the righthander had allowed just seven hits in 12 combined innings.
Johnson suffered his first loss since April 15 and fell to 13-2 on the season. In his seven previous starts, Johnson was 7-0 with a 0.60 ERA, allowing three runs in his last 45 innings. Johnson allowed four runs across six innings of work against Vanderbilt.
UNC’s rigthander allowed a season-high five runs for the third time this season. He previously yielded five runs against Duke on March 26 and North Carolina State on April 15.
Johnson has struggled in his CWS appearances. It was his third career appearance in Omaha and first career start. Johnson has a career 10.29 ERA with six strikeouts, five walks and eight hits allowed.
Noting the CWS
• North Carolina left 16 batters on base, which is the third-most in CWS history in a nine-inning game. It is the most since Florida State left 17 runners on base against Miami on June 16, 2008.
• Vanderbilt’s 53 wins this season is one shy of the school record of 54 set in 2007.
• The Commodores now have 16 come-from-behind wins this season, including a pair of wins in the NCAA tournament.
• It is the first loss by Texas in an opening game of a CWS since 2000, as the Longhorns had won five consecutive CWS openers before Saturday's game.
• With wins by Florida and Vanderbilt, the SEC went 2-0 on the opening day. It is the fifth time since 2000 that a conference went 2-0 in one day during the opening round.
• Saturday night’s attendance of 25,521 was a record for Session II, bettering the previous mark of 24,904 set in both 2005 (Nebraska/Arizona State) and 2009 (LSU/Virginia).