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.



April 22, 2003

Stung by the Yellow Jackets


Last week, we began our games with a trip up the mountains to Boone, N.C. There, we played Appalachian State. The Mountaineers' field sits atop a cliff and overlooks most of the campus, providing a wonderful setting for baseball.  

The last time we played them, we won 26-1, but the score was not indicative of the talent of their team. That game was the first time that they had escaped the never-ending white winter in the mountains and saw grass on a baseball field. Before we played them on Tuesday, one of their players told me that he had two goals in that first game. First he wanted to stay warm. Second he didn’t want to get hit by Kyle Sleeth. (A 95 mph fastball in the ribs never feels good no matter how warm it is.)

Just as we anticipated, the second game was much closer than the first. We won 13-6.  In the first two innings, we scored nine runs, but after that our offense was pretty much silent, while Appy State chipped away at our lead.

After the game, we were a little disappointed that we didn’t continue to produce and add more runs to our lead, but a win is a win, and we have learned that you have to take them any way you can. Any disappointment that we had was quickly washed away, as no one could figure out how to get hot water out of the showers at Appy State. No one managed to stay in the water for more than a few seconds and the stench could be smelled throughout the bus on the two-hour bus ride home.

On Thursday, we played our second game of the week against the Davidson Wildcats. We won 10-4. The game lacked any memorable moments and can easily be summarized as another much needed win for the Deacs.

Before the game, I had a busy academic day. At Wake Forest, it seems like all of the professors of the classes that you take get together before the semester to make certain that all of the major projects are due on the same day. On that particular day, I had a four-page paper on the 90s due, a 14-page paper on the European Union’s effect on Ireland’s growth in the last thirty years and a presentation on the 14-page paper. Needless to say, it was a long night on Wednesday and getting to play a game Thursday was a much-needed relief from the academic stress that is part of being a collegiate athlete.  

After the game on Thursday, we boarded a bus for Atlanta to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Normally it is about a five-hour bus ride, but on this particular night, there were two accidents on I-85 and it turned into a seven-hour trip. When we arrived at our hotel, it was nearly three o’clock in the morning and we were thankful that we had a night game the next day.

Friday’s game showcased two huge talents. It was a much-hyped pitchers' duel between Kyle Sleeth and Kyle Bakker. They are two of the most talented pitchers in the nation and are not just tool-heavy college pitchers - both have had incredible success over their careers. Together they have accounted for more than 40 wins and about six losses in three years. As predicted, both pitchers lived up to their reputations and produced one of the few great pitching duels in college baseball that I have been associated with.  

We ended up losing the game 2-0. Once again, we were not able to come up with a clutch hit, while Georgia Tech was able to manufacture two runs by getting on base, bunting the runners over, and getting two hits when they needed them most. Basically, they just played the game the way it is supposed to be played.

On Saturday, we lost yet again 10-4. The Rambling Wreck scored seven runs in the second inning, and we could never close the gap. The second inning let down was like a bad dream. We made so many stupid mistakes that I thought that I was going to wake up anytime and find the comfort of my hotel room pillow. However, that was not the case and just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse in conference play, they had.

On Easter Sunday, we looked to salvage a game in the series. Tim Morley led this effort with a brilliant pitching performance in which he held Tech to three runs in seven innings. Unfortunately, our offense was not so brilliant, and we only managed three runs on seven hits.  Their pitcher, freshman Micah Owings, carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. We broke it up, but again we could not find the one big hit that we needed. For example, in the eighth we had the bases loaded with one out, but Tech pitcher Brian Burks, shut the door on us.  

In three games at Georgia Tech, we only managed seven runs. It is near impossible to win a series when you score so few runs. It was especially disappointing considering the fine pitching performances that we had over the weekend.   

Next week we play Liberty, Wofford and Virginia - a huge series for us. I am looking forward to us playing our best baseball of the season.


Ryan Johnson


Previous Entries

Sick of the Weather (4/15/03)

FSU: The Deacons' Demons (4/8/03)

Deacons Go 4-0-Snow (4/1/03)

Deacons Lose Bragging Rights (3/25/03)

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)