South Carolina pitcher Tyler Johnson proved that he is one of the best relievers in college baseball this past season. The righty found out this summer he matches up just fine with other countries as well.
Johnson spent much of June and July traveling the world with other members of the Collegiate National Team and helped Team USA to an 11-7-1 record against several teams, including Chinese Taipei, Japan and Cuba.
The junior led Team USA in appearances with eight, saves with three and finished with a 2.35 ERA in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out seven batters while allowing seven hits against top competition from all over the world.
“This summer was very tough, but a very memorable experience,” Johnson said. “It’s something I enjoyed doing, traveling to Asia and then to Cuba was something that I’ll never forget as long as I play baseball. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, but I’m glad to be back.”
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The Team USA roster featured some of the top college players in the country, including Jeren Kendall of Vanderbilt, Evan White of Kentucky and Alex Faedo of Florida.
Johnson said he learned a lot spending time with those players and other teammates, and also made several friends.
“We had a lot of experience on the team. I have some peers that I played with that are very respected in the college game. I just tried to pick a few things off them, pitch-wise, mechanically, even the mental side,” he said. “Everybody was really cool. They were awesome.”
After throwing a good bit this summer, Johnson isn’t pitching much this fall. However, he’s still taking part in bullpen sessions and fine-tuning some pitches.
“Over the summer, I worked on a slider to have a little bit more bite. It was a little inconsistent, but we’re going to work that out,” he said. “I’m still on a normal bullpen schedule and going to use my bullpens to get my off-speed intact.”
He finished the 2016 season with a 3-2 record, a 2.42 ERA and nine saves in 29 appearances with 59 strikeouts in 52 innings.
While he spent the majority of the year in the bullpen, Johnson made one start and threw a complete game in a 10-1 win over UNCW in the Columbia Regional. He struck out a career-high 11 batters in the game while allowing one run on five hits.
USC coach Chad Holbrook will wait until closer to the start of the season to decide whether to keep Johnson in the bullpen or use him as a starter in 2017.
“We’re going to go through the process. I think it’s way too early to make that determination,” Holbrook said at the start of fall practice. “We certainly love what he brought to the table last year when he was in the bullpen. … We want to be flexible with Tyler. He’s certainly a big part of our pitching staff.”
Johnson said he doesn’t care if he’s used as a starter or closer.
“He’s going to put me in to get outs and that’s what I’m going to do, no matter how many outs it is – whether it’s three or six or 27,” Johnson said.
Tyler Johnson helped Team USA to a 11-7-1 record playing team from around the world. Here’s a glance at how he did:
Innings: 7 2/3