Today: May 29, 2024

Owl watch: baseball’s closer Mike Johnston

Andrew Frosceno, Staff Writer:
They frequently face some of the toughest pressure situations in all of sports. They are closers in baseball, and Southern has a great one in senior Michael Johnston.
Johnston is entering his second season on the Southern Owls baseball team after transferring from junior college at UConn-Avery Point where he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Johnston, who graduated from Thomaston High School, said Southern was always on his radar, even before he went to UConn- Avery Point.

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Senior Mike Johnston leads Southern in saves this year with four.

“I always wanted to play in the NE-10,” Johnston said. “They talked to me out of high school before I went to Avery Point so when they talked to me again I knew it was a good fit.”
Johnston said it was at UConn-Avery Point where he became prepared for pitching at a high level at Southern.
“I was able to fine tune my pitching mechanics and the pitches I throw,” Johnston said. “The coaches at Avery Point were great and taught me a lot about pitching.”
Teammate Kyle Cummings, a junior infielder on Southern’s squad and former teammate of Johnston at UConn –Avery Point, said Johnston is a perfect teammate.
“Mike is an excellent clubhouse guy,” Cummings said. “He is very likeable; he brings positive energy to the team and doesn’t have any off the field issues either.”
Cummings also said Johnston brings a lot to the table on the field as the teams closer.
“He comes into games with the high intensity you need as a closer,” Cummings said. “He finishes off games for us and gets us the wins; he fulfils his role as our closer.”
Johnston said there is one closer in particular in Major League Baseball who he models himself after because of his intensity.
“I like to watch Brian Wilson, the closer of the Giants,” Johnston said. “I love the way he finishes off games with his high intensity, that’s something you need as a closer.”
Southern’s head baseball coach Tim Shea said that Johnston is a huge key to the Owls seeing success this season on the diamond.
“He comes into the game in huge pressure situations and when he is the game that means we have a chance to win,” Shea said, “and almost every time Mike gives us those wins.”
Shea, like Cummings, said Johnston is a great teammate to the other players on the team.
“Mike is a senior leader, he leads by example, he does his job and he shows the younger players on the team how to handle pressure spots,” Shea said.
Shea said it was the accumulation of all those traits that led them to be attracted to Johnston as a recruit to Southern.
“We did look at him out of high school and loved him then,” Shea said, “like I said, he not only has great ability as a pitcher but also a great personality.” He was a great fit for our program, everyone likes him.”
Cummings said Johnston had a big part in him coming to Southern to play.
“We created a bond at Avery Point,” Cummings said. “It was good to come to a school and play with someone I know.”
Shea said that there is just one thing the team is looking for out of Johnston this season.
“We just hope he continues to pitch well,” Shea said. “He helped us get all the way to the regional final last season; he’s going to a big part of us getting back there this season.”

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