Johnson Earns Second Win of the Season

Friday night, Mississippi State (19-7, 5-4 SEC), playing at home for the first time in eight games, used the right arm of senior starting pitcher Alan Johnson to tame the 16th ranked Auburn Tigers (21-12, 5-5), 4-1, to take the first game of the three-game SEC series.

Johnson allowed 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6 in a season-long 8-inning outing. The one run by Auburn was on a home run by Karl Amonite in the 4th inning.

"I feel like everything was working tonight," said Johnson, who is now 2-3 on the season. "I located well and got them to roll over on some balls. I also think I had a little bit better changeup tonight than I've had in other games."

It was Johnson's first win since the first week of the season. Did he feel he was due for a win after pitching well in several games?

"Yeah, I feel I was due for a win," said Johnson. "It's been since the first week of the season that I've gotten a win. And I feel I've pitched well enough in certain games to come up with a win. Tonight, every facet of the game – hitting, defense and pitching – came through. That's what you have to do."

Johnson, although he was pitching well at the time, was replaced in the ninth by Brett Cleveland. MSU head coach Ron Polk had two reasons for the change.

"He had 102 pitches and Brett Cleveland needed some work," said Polk matter of factly.

Although Johnson made it look easy for those eight innings he was in the game, the Auburn Tigers, who had defeated the 3rd ranked LSU Tigers and the 7th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks four of six games during the previous two weekends, had their chances against him, especially in the third and the seventh innings.

In the third, Auburn looked like they were going to have a big inning after putting men on 1st and 3rd with no outs. But Johnson quickly put a stop to the rally by striking out the first batter, and then getting the next two batters to pop up to short and hit a routine grounder to first.

"I was thinking that I needed to get a ground ball and not worry about a run," said Johnson. "Things just worked out and I got out of the inning. It was a momentum shifter in the game."

Auburn also threaten in the top of the 7th by putting the first two men on base. After a sacrifice bunt put the runners on second and third, Johnson, like he did in the third inning, settled down and retired the next two batters on a strikeout and a routine grounder to short.

"Those are the type situations I thrive on," said Johnson. "I didn't really do anything different. I was just hitting my spots."

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs hitters did their part by scoring 1 run in the second, 2 in the sixth and 1 in the 7th. The run in the seventh put the Bulldogs up 4-1. That was a key run, at least according to Johnson, who hasn't seen many three-run leads this season.

"When we scored that 4th run, I was somewhat relieved," said Johnson. "That was just some extra cushion. It has been a while since I've pitched with a lead."

Not only was the win important to him personally, but it also was important to his team as a whole because it moved them up in the overall SEC standings from 9th to 5th. It also put them just one and a half games out of first place.

"It was a huge win for us," said Johnson. "This weekend and next weekend are huge for us. If we sweep Auburn or win at least two out of three against them and win two out of three against Georgia (on the road) and Kentucky (at home), then there is a possibility that we can set it so that we (are in a position to) win the SEC."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

Gene's Page Top Stories