Johnson has strong finish for Dartmouth
Michael Johnson ventured into the depths of self-reflection, often thinking about what he could have done better earlier in his career on the baseball diamond at Dartmouth College.
As a freshman, in 28.2 innings pitched, he compiled a bumpy 5.65 earned run average as the Big Green captured the Ivy League championship and advanced to the NCAA Division 1 regional. The next two seasons, covering 13 starts, he went 7-1 while helping propel Dartmouth to a pair of Ivy League title games.
Still, the Brooks School graduate from Georgetown challenged himself to become more consistent.
“Things didn’t go as well as I’d like my freshman and sophomore years — I was still struggling to make adjustments,” said the 22-year-old Johnson, a 6-foot, 180-pound southpaw. “But I kept at it, and knew what I had to do to be successful.”
Last summer, Johnson put in the extra work to improve his flexibility, required to repeat his delivery with consistency. The senior’s hard work was rewarded this spring with a dazzling 7-0 record, a 1.82 earned run average and 47 strikeouts as the Big Green (32-9) set a program record for wins, and made their fourth straight appearance in the Ivy championship game.
“I focused a lot more on my legs and my flexibility,” said Johnson, who earned first team All-Ivy honors. “I felt at times, my freshman and sophomore years, my flexibility inhibited me a bit from not getting through to my front side.”
On Tuesday, he worked out for the Los Angeles Dodgers at Felician College in New Jersey, with an eye toward Major League Baseball’s annual draft beginning June 6.
His season, and collegiate career, came to a close on May 4, when Dartmouth was swept by Columbia, 6-5 and 12-5, in the Ivy League championship.
“That definitely was not one of my better outings,” Johnson said. “But there’s definitely something to learn about every outing, whether you do well or not as well as you like. But that one reiterated the importance of finishing pitches, and getting ahead and keep battling.”
Coach Bob Whalen , a Needham native who just completed his 24th season in the Dartmouth dugout, calls Johnson’s senior year one of the program’s best single-season performances.
Utilizing his fastball, slider, and changeup, Johnson led the league in wins. Whalen said he most appreciated Johnson’s ability to pitch late into grueling conference games, which were crunched into 10 doubleheaders over the course of five weekends.
“He was 4-0 in Ivy games and started every weekend. You really can’t do much better than that,” Whalen said. “He gave us a chance to win every time he took the ball and got deep into the game. Having a guy who throws strikes and having a guy to get you deep was a luxury.”
Johnson was the anchor for a staff that paced the Ivy with an ERA of 2.75.
“This was the best pitching staff I’ve ever had,” Whalen said, citing the contributions of Cole Sulser (5-3, 2.52 ERA) and Mitch Horacek (6-2, 2.20). “Mike was certainly right there with all of them. On paper, he didn’t have as many strikeouts. But he had the ability to throw strikes and pitch to contact and get balls in play.”
Johnson also reflected on his transition in the classroom, which he said was most difficult during his freshman year, when he had to take one of his final exams in a hotel room during the NCAA regionals in Coral Gables, Fla.
But he learned from that experience, and has balanced baseball with his studies in economics, consistently earning a place on the dean’s list.
Whalen is certain that Johnson’s best years in baseball are ahead of him.
“I’m confident someone will give him an opportunity at the next level,” Whalen said. “He’s a kid who had a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential, and he maximized it.”
Gymnasts win gold for One Fund Boston
For the first time since 2005, the Bay State’s team of gymnasts captured the gold medal at the Senior Showcase Invitational tournament Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla.
But there was something extra special about this victory, and it had little to do with snapping an eight-year drought.
It had everything to do with the 21-person squad, which included area high school seniors Adrianna Beatrice (Billerica), Gina Pomponi (Billerica), Kathryn Manning (Lowell), Sarah Muolo (Stoneham), Katherine Pitman (Swampscott), Loralee Smith (Beverly), and Jessica Whitehead (North Andover), dedicating their tournament to those impacted by the Boston Marathon bombings.
“It doesn’t get much better than first,” said Lisa Mansfield , the girls’ coach at Wakefield High who also serves as president of the Bay State team. “The best part of the weekend was how the girls came together as a team. When we got there, we were met with a lot of love, respect, and support from other teams when we announced what we were doing.
“When the girls won the gold, it was the icing on the cake until all the other teams stood up and gave our team a standing ovation.”
In the 15-team field, Massachusetts (150.325 points) edged Illinois (149.825) and New Jersey (148.175).
Beatrice advanced to the individual finals in the vault, finishing 12th (9.125), and Manning placed 10th in the beam (8.75). Assistant coach Pete Gobiel , the athletic director at Winthrop High, was named Coach of the Meet.
The team also raised more than $500 for the One Fund Boston, selling nearly 300 blue and yellow ribbons that the gymnasts had made.
“The support was unbelievable,” Mansfield said. “People were handing out extra dollars — everyone just felt so proud. None of the girls cared they were from Massachusetts. What mattered was they were from Boston.”
Here and there
Nahant native Meghan Toomey has been named head coach of the girls’ ice hockey team at the Kents Hill School in Maine, and will also be joining the admissions office as an assistant director. Toomey was the girls’ coach at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., and assisted with the girls’ program at Marblehead High while pursuing her master’s degree. . . Trinity College senior outfielder Joe Papa, a Stoneham native and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School graduate, was named New England Small College Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year in baseball after batting .386 to lead his team to a 21-19 record. He also led the conference with a .487 on base percentage, was second in slugging percentage at .559, and tied for third in home runs with three.
Anthony Gulizia can be reached at gulizia.ant@ gmail.com.