SMITHVILLE • Jared Johnson’s first time pitching in front of a professional scout served as a shock to the Smithville senior, but that feeling was quickly erased.
Johnson remembers seeing scouts for the first time this season when the Seminoles played Itawamba AHS at home on March 23. Auburn head coach Butch Thompson and scouts from the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals were all in attendance.
The hard-throwing righty threw a complete game, allowed only two hits, and struck out 15 Indians on the day.
After that, it was smooth sailing the rest of the season.
Johnson went 9-0 this year with a 0.68 ERA, 100 strikeouts, and never allowed more than two hits in a single game. At the plate, he hit .494 with 10 home runs. Johnson is the Daily Journal Player of the Year.
“At first, it shocked me some,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t really used to seeing scouts back there. ... I wanted to throw strikes, but throw it hard, too. They are there to see velocity. I wanted to win the game and everything, but definitely wanted to throw it hard.”
More and more scouts started showing up, and 15 to 20 came out for a division matchup against West Union in which Johnson threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed no earned runs, and struck out nine batters.
Following that win, Johnson said he paid little attention to who was behind the plate with radar guns.
“After that game, I wasn’t nervous any more because there was so many there,” Johnson said. “We won that game, so I felt like I could do it in front of anybody. I just tried not to let that affect me too much.”
Johnson’s season can be attributed to hard work.
With only about 70 innings under his belt in two previous seasons pitching, he spent this past summer and offseason working on explosive drills and tried to gain more control and learn to locate his pitches better.
His goal was to gain enough velocity to hit 95 mph this year.
Johnson reached as high as 97 twice this year and sat in the low to mid 90s in a complete game win in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 1A state championship held at Trustmark Park.
After winning the state championship, his high school career officially came to a close when Johnson was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 14th round of the MLB draft.
The Mississippi State commit is likely to forgo the college route and turn pro.