Ryan Johnson is a senior at Wake Forest. Each week, the All-American outfielder will keep us posted on the happenings at Wake Forest, a team that should challenge for the ACC title. Johnson, who batted .366 a year ago with 13 home runs and 77 RBI, is a tri-captain for the Demon Deacons.



March 25, 2003

Deacons Lose Bragging Rights


During the last week, our team’s attention, like the majority of our country, was captured by the war in Iraq.


It was hard not to talk about it when every television station seemed to have some sort of coverage of it. Coverage of the war was even on the Carolina Jumbotron before Friday’s game. Surprisingly, the political debates between those for and against the war had a large amount of substance to them. I guess that the $30,000 for the Wake education does pay off after all. From a personal standpoint, the war hit home when I heard the first missiles explode on television. Even though I had been expecting the war for a while, there was nothing that could prepare me for that sound. I vaguely remembered the sights and sounds of war from the television’s coverage of Operation Desert Storm, but then it seemed more like a live video game. Now, knowing that I am old enough to be in the military, it seems all too realistic. However, as the saying goes, the game must go on and, we must remain focused on playing well.


Our first scheduled game last week versus Oklahoma State was cancelled due to rain. On Wednesday, it seemed like Mother Nature was going to get another victory, but the heavy rain held off long enough to get in nine innings against High Point. On damp days like this we just, “Show and Go.” This means that we take no batting practice and do not take a full pre-game. It is hard for many teams to remain focused during this process because it takes them out of their normal routine, but our team has done a great job of it thus far. We won the game 11-2 and jetted towards the bus as the rain began to pick up. Jamie D’Antona continued his dominate offensive performance by hitting two home runs for us. 


On Thursday our practice got rained out, and we took to the all too familiar indoor cages. We have now spent so many hours in them this season that we have put up tape markings to play tee games with. Each player gets a certain number of points for each marking that he hits, and points vary depending on the difficulty of the location that he hits. It is an entertaining way of building consistency off a tee and provides a way to meet our competitive needs. 


We left for our second ACC weekend against Chapel Hill on Friday. Up until this weekend, teams that I had played on were 11-1 versus the Tar Heels. It is a very intense rivalry, thanks in large part to the fact that many of us play together during the summers.  Winning the series gains players bragging rights for a year. Every game we played had been a battle until this weekend when they took two out of three games from us, blowing us out 12-5 and 12-3 on Saturday and Sunday. Needless to say, it was a long bus ride home on Sunday. 


Friday’s game was a pitching duel that we won 6-1. Kyle Sleeth continued to baffle hitters and threw eight solid innings for us. We manufactured three runs early by playing small ball, which is very uncharacteristic for our team. In the eighth, however, Jeff Ruziecki unleashed a bomb that may have hit the fabled Dean Dome across the campus. Unfortunately, that would be the last offensive highlight that we had all weekend. 


On Saturday, Carolina capitalized on some of our early mistakes and hit three home runs in the first inning. The day only got worse, as the Tar Heels finished with five homers and 12 runs. Every time they hit a home run, they played the 80s song “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” and after the fifth time, I was ready to sabotage the sound system. For the Tar Heels, junior lefty Daniel Moore kept us off balance all day and refused to let us get a big hit. After playing two summers with him in Chatham and facing him in three games here, I am convinced that he is one of the best pitchers in the ACC, if not the country.  


We left from Winston at 8:30 on Sunday morning very confident, but knew we were in for a battle. What we weren’t expecting was the massacre that ensued. For the second straight day, Carolina exploded offensively and yes, they got to play that darn song a few more times. Offensively, we had nine hits, but only managed to score three runs. We came back to Winston disappointed, but still know that we have a lot of baseball to play in the next couple of months, and our best games are yet to come. As for bragging rights, I purposely turned off my cell phone when I got home and was not surprised to wake up this morning (Monday) with a couple “friendly” messages from my buddies on the other team, just in case I had forgotten that we had lost.  I did the same thing last year, so I guess I had it coming.


This week we play High Point on Tuesday, UNC Greensboro on Wednesday and Duke over the weekend.


Ryan Johnson


Previous Entries

Demon Deacons Reminded to Fear the Turtle (3/18/03)

Feeling Blue? Lasorda is the Cure (3/11/03)

Karaoke and Playing in a Big-League Dome (3/4/03)


(photo courtesy of WFU Media Relations Office)