THOMASVILLE -- Drew Johnson's the natural competitor with a never-say-die attitude and a hungry desire to improve and win game in, game out.
It's only this year that Johnson's had to learn to be a leader for the Brookwood Warriors.
For the last two years, Johnson played in the shadows of Brookwood's stellar senior class, in the Warriors' run to back-to-back GISA championships. In order for the Warriors to three-peat, a bulk of the leadership has fallen on the shoulders of the Warriors' third baseman. A responsibility he's embraced.
"Drew's the kind of guy that handles transition really well," said Brookwood head coach Boo Taylor. "He could adapt to most anything you ask him to. He has gotten to where he's communicating with all the kids. When you have guys that communicate like that, it takes a lot of worries off my mind.
Along with outfielder Tyler Alexander, the two were the only starters that returned this season for the Warriors. Johnson is fully aware of what being a leader is all about. After all, he had six guys to look up to.
"It's never easy, being that you've got a little more pressure and you've got to be a leader and you've got to make sure you're setting a good example for everybody," Johnson said. "Seth (Tucker), Jared (Lewis), Stephen (Shea), Stephen (Cheney), Clayton (Funderburke and Robert (Shiver) did a really good job in showing good leadership, so it was easy to follow them.
"But yet, to know you've got to be responsible for everybody and set the right example, it puts a little pressure on you. You've just got to be able to relax and play your game and have fun."
What Johnson learned the most from his former teammates was their ability to pick other players up when things got tough.
"They were real positive to everybody," Johnson said. "It's just what I try to do this year. If somebody makes an error, we all get together and cheer each other up."
Johnson's play on the field so far this year has merited leader status. Against Crisp County last Tuesday, Johnson went 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Johnson also did something he done since his sophomore season, pitch.
"This year I'm going to have to pitch a lot more," said Johnson. "It was kind of a thing where we ran out of pitchers and just stuck me in there. I just don't have the pitching arm so Boo's going to help me."
So far so good. Johnson lasted four innings against Crisp, allowing just two hits, one earned run, while striking out seven.
"He's thrown off the mound in practice a couple of times," added Taylor. "He threw 58 pitches and didn't want to come out of the game. He is the top of the line competitor. He loves a challenge and hates to lose at anything."
Johnson's forte, however, lies on the hot corner where his skills came into play a couple of weeks ago against Florida High. The Seminoles had the bases loaded with nobody out when they smashed a hard grounder to Johnson. He snagged the ball, stepped on third and threw home for the double play.
"Normal situation, I'd probably backhand that," Johnson said. "Being that the bases were loaded I didn't want to take the chance of it taking a bad hop and getting down the line. Definitely the hot corner, you've got to be on your toes."
Opposing pitchers had better learn to be on their toes when Johnson is in the batter's box. The senior has shown tremendous improvement over the past couple of seasons at the plate, in particular at being more selective with pitches.
"He's taking walks more now. Last year he was trying to hit the long ball a lot more," added Taylor. "Now, he's showing a lot more discipline and getting good pitches to hit, and he's not missing them."
"My sophomore year, I took five walks," Johnson said. "I've always remembered that because five walks, in almost a 100 at-bats, is not many at all. I always was up there first-pitch hacking if it was around the plate. Now I'm relaxed.
"Being that I'm in the three hole and a senior, I don't get many pitches right around the plate."
Johnson hopes his bat continues to improves with the Warriors gunning for another state title.
"You always want to go out on a win. We definitely think we have a chance," Johnson said.
Leading the pack
- Clint Thompson
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