It’s becoming evident that the postseason is Jimmy Johnson’s time.
The Cayuga senior followed up his 19-strike victory over Simms-Bowie in the area round with an 11-punch out performance here Wednesday, staking the fourth-ranked Wildcats to a 1-0 lead in their regional quarterfinal series with Overton with a 7-1 win.
“It’s a great start. It’s always a good start when you get a Game 1 victory in a series,” CHS coach Greg Branch said. “It was nice to defeat Overton and get that 1-0 lead, but we’ve been there before with these guys and know they’re going to fight back starting on Friday.”
The Wildcats never scored more than three runs in an inning but scored in every inning but one of the victory.
The Game 1 win is a repeat of last season, when Cayuga opened this very same series against the Mustangs with a win behind Johnson.
But, Overton bounced back to win both Games 2 and 3 to claim the series en route to a trip to the state tournament.
Cayuga scored all the runs it would need in the second inning, when the Wildcats increased what had been a 1-0 lead to a 4-0 advantage.
Hunter Jenkins reached with a one-out single, and moved to second when Jaret Walthall walked in the next at-bat.
Johnson drove in Jenkins with a line drive single to centerfield, and Walthall came home to score on a single by Payton Wallace in the next at-bat.
Johnson came home on a deep fly ball to right field from Jake Nash to make it 4-0.
That’s all Johnson would need.
The Vernon College-commit never faced more than four batters in an inning, and never allowed a runner past second base.
He struck out the side on three different occasions and eight of the final nine outs he recorded came via the strikeout.
“It felt good. Getting beat by Overton last year, it had adrenaline pumping through the team,” Johnson said. “I was fortunate to go out there and pitch strikes and the defense made the plays they needed to make.”
Possibly more important than the pitches he threw Thursday were the pitches he didn’t throw.
Johnson threw less than 80 pitches, which means he’ll most likely be available again in this series, which resumes at 7 p.m. Friday at Brownsboro High School.
“He through a lot of strikes, which limited his pitch count,” Branch said. “If we’re going to utilize him again in the series, which we hope we can, it was important for me to lower his pitch count. He went out and threw a lot of first pitch strikes. He went out and executed the game plan.”
Nash finished 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBI, as well as a run scored. The senior, who’ll also attend Vernon College next year, also pitched the game’s final two innings for Cayuga, allowing one run on two hits while fanning two.
Johnson finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, while Wallace was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Despite the convincing victory, the mood surrounding the Wildcats wasn’t a complete celebration.
As a whole, the squad knows that there’s still work to be done and that they’ve been in this same position before, only to see things not fall their way.
“We’ve just got to stay focused,” Johnson said. “We’re just going to stay focused and go out there relaxed and play ball and, hopefully, win it.”
This version corrects an earlier version that incorrectly spelled Jaret Walthall's first name.