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Senior Spotlight: Oakcrest’s Ryan Johnson has been ahead of curve on diamond from an early age

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By GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor When Sean Olson had a chance to check in on the future of Oakcrest High School baseball at the Mays Landing baseball fields several years ago, one player stood out more than the rest. The Falcons coach had good reason to get excited about what he saw in a young Ryan Johnson. Johnson had the height, towering over most players his age. He was also bigger than most of his peers, which was an asset on the diamond, as well as on the gridiron. However, it wasn’t just his size that made Johnson standout to Johnson. Even four years ago, Johnson showed great hitting technique. “I watched him as an eighth grader when I went down to the rec ball field. Sure, he was the biggest kid on the team, but he got a single to right field and that was pretty impressive to see from a kid his age,” Olson explained. “It was an off-speed pitch, a curveball, and he took it to right field for a single. I was trying to teach my varsity kids to do that.” Oakcrest senior Ryan Johnson has been one of the top pitchers and hitters in the Cape-Atlantic League this season. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Oakcrest senior Ryan Johnson has been one of the top pitchers and hitters in the Cape-Atlantic League this season. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Four years later, Johnson is still impressing Olson, and most people who have watched the Oakcrest senior develop through the years. The Falcons star still has size — he is listed at 6-2 and as a senior is in much better shape than in years past — but he also has the physical tools, talent and a strong mental makeup to be one of the top players in the Cape-Atlantic League. “I have always been seen as a power hitter and they always want to point to my size. And with my pitching, they want to point to my size and (link it) to pitching velocity,” Johnson said. “I was worried dropping weight would affect my pitching velocity, but it hasn’t.” It didn’t because Johnson works at his pitching, and has the attitude to be the ace. Johnson may even be a better hitter, on pace to reach 100 career hits this season. He batted .380 a year ago and .321 as a sophomore, knocking in more than 20 runs each year. Last year, he registered 35 hits, including five doubles. However, Johnson enjoys being on the mound with the ball, and his team’s fate, in his hand. “Hitting has always been one of my favorite parts of baseball, but to me, nothing feels better than going out, having a quality start or throwing a complete game,” Johnson said. “That’s my favorite thing to do, to go out and dominate; to keep my team in it and dominate is probably one of my favorite things to do.” Olson said that Johnson knows his strengths and weaknesses, and, more importantly, shows no fear on the mound or at the plate. “I think with him he is very grounded,” Olson said. “He never gets overly emotional, which is rare to see from a high school kid. The game of baseball is hard enough to deal with all the failure, but it’s rare to see him react emotionally, which shows the type of character he has; the resiliency, the maturity and all that stuff. You don’t see that much from high school kids. When they struggle they show it. They may toss a helmet or react. “That’s not him. He does a great job staying cool, calm and collected. He only does what he can. That is impressive to see as a coach that a young man is able to do that.” There is still some work for Johnson to do at Oakcrest, including registering his milestone 100th career hit. Once he graduates in June, Johnson will turn his focus on college, where he plans to continue to play baseball. He plans on playing for the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, and he can thank the Mummers for that. An assistant coach on his club team is in a string band with a coach from the Philadelphia school, which needed a pitcher. A bullpen session and a college visit later, and Johnson found a school where he will be spending the next four years. “I think it is a good decision,” Johnson sad. “It’s a good school and I can continue to play baseball, which is a great plus.” Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu [adsense]

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