Johnson Overwhelms Maryland

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - A one-hour weather delay did not keep Patrick Johnson from shelling Maryland's batters with a career-high 12 strikeouts to lead No. 12 North Carolina (35-10, 14-8 ACC) to a 5-0 win over the Terrapins.

"I was able to command my fastball well as the game went on," said Johnson, who allowed four hits in 7.0 innings. "I think that was the biggest key for me. It kind of kept them off balance. The second time around they kind of started cheating for the fastball, so me and Coach Forbes started mixing it up."

Forbes and UNC assistant coach Robert Woodard emphasize fastballs, while at the same time finding that off-speed pitch that deceives a batter. Johnson has four pitches in his arsenal, but handcuffed the Terrapins with his changeup and slider.

The victory over Maryland marks the third time this season Johnson recorded at least 10 strikeouts, and the fourth of his collegiate career.

"He goes out there and competes his tail off and gives us a chance to win," Woodard said. "He was just lights out tonight."

Johnson's strikeout performance was a career-best, but what makes it even more impressive is that he struggled to see the signs catcher Jacob Stallings was giving him. Stallings even painted his hand white.

"I guess he has bad eyes," Stallings said. "We painted my hand up as much as we could, and he still couldn't see it. I guess he was seeing the glove all right, [but] he wasn't seeing the signs too well."

UNC head coach Mike Fox said he's curious to find out the number of 3-2 and 2-0 strikes that Johnson has thrown. The 5-foot-11 right-hander had five 3-2 situations in the game. He struck out one, walked two, and the Terrapins grounded out and popped out on the other two. Johnson gave up a single on his only 2-0 count.

"I think he keeps the hitter a little uncomfortable," Fox said. "Tonight – that's typical Patrick Johnson. There's always somebody on base. He's pitching out of the set. He picks a guy off, makes a big pitch. The fact that he didn't give up but four hits, that's typical him."

Johnson may live on the edge, but his strength and confidence have still had to come a long way since off-season shoulder surgery.

"It feels good to go out there and do that," Johnson said. "After all the arm care and rehab I had to put in, and the time that I spent here, it is gratifying. The best thing is just getting a win. Hopefully we can get two more of those this weekend."

Even when Johnson left the game after seven strong innings, Carolina continued its dominance from the mound, starting with R.C. Orlan and finishing with Shane Taylor.

In 1.1 innings, Orlan threw 11 strikes out of 15 pitches, recording two strikeouts, while four of Taylor's five pitches were strikes, helping the Diamond Heels maintain the shutout win. "Look at R.C. Orlan tonight, he threw all fastballs, and look at how much success he had," Woodard said. "P.J., R.C. and Shane were all awesome tonight."

Woodard said command of the fastball is of the utmost priority for the pitching staff and will continue to be moving forward.

The shutout win over Maryland marks 30 consecutive innings without an earned run for UNC.


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