mcj-2019-06-05-sports-johnson-3c

Smithville's Jared Johnson, seen pitching in Game 1 of the state championship, finished out the season with an undefeated 9-0 record on the mound.

Editor’s Note: The Major League Baseball draft finished up after the Monroe Journal’s Tuesday morning deadline. For coverage of where Jared Johnson was drafted, please visit djournal.com/monroe and see next week’s Monroe Journal.

For Smithville’s Jared Johnson, his senior season turned out picture perfect.

The Seminoles won the 2019 Class 1A state championship, and Johnson’s performance on the mound and uptick in velocity turned the heads of Major League Baseball scouts and Division I college coaches. His performance at the plate was just as strong and ended with the solo homer that sealed the state championship.

“This year was definitely probably my favorite year of high school. It felt really good, especially ending with a sweep at state,” Johnson said. “I wanted to come back and hit just as well and hit more home runs, which I did, and I wanted to come back and pitch even better. I didn’t even win a game in the playoffs last year and then went undefeated this year, which I give that to my team. They are the ones that score the runs, and I just try to provide strikes and give them a great opportunity.”

Next on his agenda is this week’s MLB draft, where Johnson is predicted to be taken on the second day, somewhere in the first 10 rounds.

“I’m excited. I know a lot of people say you might get disappointed because you think someone is going to pick you and they don’t, and somebody else may lowball you or something like that,” he said. “I’m real open to it, and definitely if I get what I want, I’m going to take it and start on my professional career. But if I don’t, then hey, I get to go play baseball at Mississippi State and get a degree. I’m really looking forward to the draft. It’s going to be a big part of my life, and my family is really excited. They don’t want me to move away, but they know it’s once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The interest from the professional scouts started this season when Johnson’s increase in velocity grabbed attention. The first game that a scout attended ended up being a two-hit, 15-strikeout performance against Itawamba AHS back in March.

Johnson said his focus when the scouts started coming was to throw hard.

“Throw strikes, but throw it hard too. They are there to see velocity,” he said. “I want to win the game and everything, but definitely throw it hard. Like a lot of coaches in college and the pros say, hard throwers love to throw hard. That’s just how it is. If you’re up there pumping mid-90s, you love doing that and that’s why you’re out there.”

Johnson credits his offseason work with his brother, Grant, who just finished up two years pitching at Itawamba Community College, with helping him to gain five to six miles per hour on the mound.

“Grant is the one that got me doing explosive work in the offseason. He also gained about six miles an hour velocity,” he said. “He’s helped me out a lot. When you have a college athlete in the house, you are going to feed off each other and be real competitive. We would sit there and do rep after rep to see who could do the most, and we would be trying to hit each other in the chest as many times as possible when we were playing catch out here. I owe him a lot of credit for where I’m at now.”

Smithville’s wild ride through the playoffs included winning five games on the road, and Johnson said the challenge of going into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed was a big motivation.

“Doubt really motivated us, and I think that was one of the things that drove us the most. We talked about that a lot, us seniors when we were out here shagging balls,” he said. “Our town wants us to win, but everybody else says we haven’t got a chance and we aren’t going to do anything. We all just kind of got ticked off honestly and said, ‘You don’t think we can do it, but we know we can.’”

With moving on to the next level, whether it be the pros or college, the focus shifts entirely to pitching, but Johnson can take the memory of his final at bat with him – the go-ahead, solo home run in the top of the seventh inning that ending up clinching the title.

“After I hit that home run, every player came out and met me, and we were jumping around and going crazy. That meant a lot when I saw everyone come running out of the dugout and coming to celebrate with me,” he said. “I thought, this is why I’m doing it. I was talking to my dad about that, and I said, ‘My last at bat was a home run at state, and it was the only run in the last game we will ever play in.’ It ended pretty well on a good note right there.”

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