TARPON SPRINGS — Last week, Brian Johnson was in the midst of allowing six runs in the first inning of a 6-2 loss to Dunedin when the junior right-hander realized he would have to become a different pitcher if he were to succeed the rest of his career.
"It was pretty simple," Johnson said. "As I saw Casey (Turgeon's) homer fly into the woods, it hit me that I couldn't just try to overpower people anymore. I had to mix it up and use my curve and changeup to make things work. Giving up all those runs wasn't that fun but in the long run, I think things will work out for the best."
That process was in full display Friday in a 4-2 win over Pinellas Park.
Johnson, pitching in relief with East Lake clinging to a 2-1 lead, struck out the side in the fifth inning after he had allowed the first two runners to reach base. After Tyler Kellmann gave the Eagles (9-3) a 4-1 lead on his two-out, two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning, Johnson struck out the side in the sixth and, despite surrendering a seventh-inning home run, was able to earn his first save of the season.
"Intelligence and aggressiveness," East Lake coach Mike White said of Johnson's performance. "We talked about his preparation, especially his mental preparation. It's part of the process to him becoming a complete pitcher."
Pinellas Park (8-6) scored in the fourth when Richie Wisniewski singled to score Cody Nowakowski and looked like it would tack on more when it loaded the bases against starter Cody Alessi (3-0). But Alessi induced Nate Garisto into an inning-ending pop fly.