Coco Johnson proving to be a tough out

After a slow start to the season, junior outfielder Coco Johnson has become a tough out at the plate, reaching base in 19 consecutive games. Cardinal Authority visited with Johnson following the team's Tuesday night win.

Louisville junior outfielder Coco Johnson was a highly-touted prospect when he arrived after two outstanding seasons at Central Arizona. The Benton Harbor, Mich., native was an All-Conference choice after leading the team to the National Junior College World Series.

During preseason workouts, Johnson lived up to the expectations of being a clutch hitter, with speed and some power. However, once the season began, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound outfielder struggled at the plate and a midseason injury kept him out of action for over a week.

Since returning, Johnson has been hot at the plate, reaching base in 19 consecutive games and improving his batting average to .323.

"Now that I'm healthy, I'm seeing the ball real well," he told Cardinal Authority following Tuesday's 6-2 win over Western Kentucky. "I try to have dispilined at bats and only swing at the good pitches. I'm trying to be a tough out."

Despite missing eight games due to injury, Johnson's impact is still noticable. He's had 13 multi-hit games and 9 multi-RBI efforts, which is currently second best on the team. His four home runs is tied for best on the team with Jeff Gardner. He's been hit by pitch 16 times, which ranks 17th in the nation and is the 10th highest single season total in school history.

"He had a great fall and great spring training," said McDonnell. "He got off to a little bit of a slow start with his first experience of Division I baseball and then he got banged up. He had to sit out for a week or so and it took him a little bit of time to get back. Once he clicked, then all the fans realized why he hits third or fourth.

"I like where I am hitting in the batting order because [Adam] Engel has speed and [Nick] Ratajczak has some speed, and both of those guys are contact hitters, so that gives me an opportunity to hit those guys in."

"He's a special player," said McDonnell. "He can hit the home run. He can get the HBP or the walk, so he's a high on base guy. He can steal bases. He can play good defense. He's a very versatile player."

Johnson is enjoying his time on and off the field at Louisville.

"I'm enjoying it," he said. "It took awhile to get used to it, but I'm enjoying it here now. It's definitely a good environment and happy to be here. Playing in front of these fans are great. It's my first year here and the fans have shown me a lot love and support when I'm at bat or make a play. It's pretty exciting."

One of the primary factors in Johnson choosing Louisville was the opportunity to play for Dan McDonnell.

"He's the first coach that let me do my own thing," he said. "He told me that I have the green light. He kind of lets us do our own thing, that's what I love about him."

"We pride ourselves on giving guys the green light," said McDonnell. "You have to earn it and he earned the green light."

Next up for Louisville (34-10) is a weekend series at Big East foe Villanova.

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