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
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
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
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.
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)