May 23, 2013

Johnson's gem keeps Baseball's candle burning

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- Northern Colorado senior right-handed pitcher Jake Johnson lifted the Bears to a 4-2 victory over host NJIT on Thursday in a Great West Conference Tournament elimination game at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium.

He surrendered just two runs on four hits, walked one and struck out five to push Northern Colorado (31-23) into another elimination game at 8 a.m. MT tomorrow against Chicago State.

It was the second straight strong GWC Tournament game for Johnson (Aurora, Colo.), who earned a complete-game, seven-inning 11-1 victory in last season's tourney.

Junior Kevin Willman (Aurora) walked one and struck out one in the ninth Thursday to end the season for NJIT (20-34) and earn his 10th save this season.

"Jake Johnson needs to work on his first impression," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said. "Because the first impression isn't who he is. He always makes a great second impression. The first inning is a little tough, but he bounces back well. If this is the last [NCAA] Division I appearance of his career, this is a sweet memory for him. I'm happy of the way he battled for his team to extend our season to another day."

All nine hitters for the Bears notched at least one hit Thursday, and junior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) had two as the team scored four runs on 10 hits.

Sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i), junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.), junior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) and Fujimoto each had an RBI.

Senior Ryan Yamane (Honolulu) started the game with a leadoff walk, moved to second on a groundout by Park and scored on a Harrison single to center field for an early 1-0 lead.

NJIT scored two runs in its half of the first inning, with two hits and a sacrifice fly, to make it 2-1.

Junior Ben Netzel (Loveland) led off the second inning with a walk, and junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) singled between the shortstop and third baseman to put two runners on with no outs. Yamane then laid down a bunt single to load the bases, and Park blooped a single into shallow right-center that knotted the score 2-2 and knocked Highlanders starter Matt Coughlin out of the game.

Miller then hit a long fly ball to deep center to plate Moseley from third and give the lead back to the Bears, 3-2.

Johnson retired the side in order in the second, including two strikeouts.

Junior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) started the third inning with a walk, and, with one out, Netzel bunted for a single but was tagged out later on the base paths.

Fujimoto then singled to center, scoring Coffman, and Fujimoto hustled to second on an errant throw by the left fielder, which signaled the end of the game for Ian Bentley.

Johnson again set down the Highlanders in order in their half of the third to extend his streak to nine straight batters, but the first two Highlanders reached to begin the fourth before Johnson's defense came up with two good plays to get him out of the jam.

Moseley fielded a ground ball and tagged the passing runner before flipping to Harrison for the double play, and, later, on a sharply hit ground ball to Fujimoto at third, the ball ricocheted to Yamane, who quickly threw home to senior catcher Derek Baum (San Diego) for the tag at the plate to end the inning.

Neither offense scored the final six innings, though the Bears had base runners in four of the innings, and the Highlanders had runners in the final three innings.