E.A. Sports Today

Gem of the hill

Johnson’s nightcap no-hitter vs. Gardendale sends Oxford into second round of Class 6A playoffs

Oxford players dogpile on pitcher Carter Johnson (cover) after the sophomore right-hander threw a no-hitter Friday night to send the Yellow Jackets into the second round of the playoffs. (Photos courtesy of Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Carter Johnson exploded off the mound after an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth inning, chest-bumped coach Wes Brooks on his way to the dugout and proclaimed quite loudly to anyone who was listening, “This is my house.”


No one was going to hit off the sophomore right-hander in his house. Not on this night, anyway.

Johnson joined an elite group of Oxford pitchers to throw a post-season no-hitter Friday night when he fashioned the gem in a 1-0 victory over Gardendale to give the Jackets a sweep of their Class 6A playoff opener.

“I didn’t even know I had the no-hitter going to be honest with you,” he said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to it. I was just going to keep doing my thing, keep throwing strikes. I’ve got the best defense in the country behind me, so it makes my job easy.”

The Yellow Jackets (31-5) won the opener 13-3, scoring nine in the sixth inning to run-rule the Rockets (24-9). They will play at Hazel Green (21-14) in the next round.

Johnson’s gem was the talk of Choccolocco Park. He allowed six base runners, but the only runner he allowed by bat-on-ball contact reached on an infield throwing error leading off the fourth inning that really wasn’t a difficult scoring decision. He ended the game on his ninth strikeout — two pitches short of his sophomore pitch limit.

Brooks had a relief at the ready in case Johnson reached his 100-pitch limit, but lifting him with a no-hitter despite the rules would have been akin to the Dodgers lifting Clayton Kershaw with a perfect game before its completion. 

Johnson was locked into such a zone he didn’t know where he stood on his pitch count or that he even had a no-hitter developing. Brooks said he didn’t realize Johnson had the no-no until the final pitch when the Jackets dogpiled the pitcher on the mound.

Johnson called that strikeout that led to the chest bump, a strikeout that came after a walk after being denied another strikeout by a foul tip, the turning point of the game.

“It was just emotions, man; just super excited,” he said. “We just knew that was like a turning point in the game where we had the game going back on our side.”

“He plays with emotion, he’s very passionate,” Brooks said. “We talked all week about how great aa hitting team they were. For him to no-hit them … that makes our team believe we can (get to the finals).”

Johnson’s gem will now go down in Oxford lure with the no-hitter (Gadsden City), perfect game (Hewitt-Trussville) and one-hitter (state finals) combination Tucker Simpson gave the Jackets on their way to the 2012 state title.

“If he doesn’t already have an SEC offer, he’s probably going to get one after tonight,” Brooks said.

For six innings, Johnson and Gardendale left-hander Logan Fitzgerald were trading zeroes. The Yellow Jackets scored the only run of the game in the seventh when Tide Gann raced home from second on Sam Robertson’s sharp one-out single to left field.

Gann reached base when Rockets’ second baseman Bryson Barnes had the ball slide out of his hand as he went to turn on what appeared to be a routine double play grounder. Instead, it gave the Jackets runners on first and second with nobody out and plenty of options in front of them.

The Jackets won the opener with a big sixth inning. It was a 4-3 game, but they batted around before Gardendale could record an out. Hayes Harrison had a three-run double in the inning and Hudson Gilman later ripped a two-run single, his second hit of the inning.

“Usually in baseball you win one game by your bats and another by pitching and defense,” Brooks said. “To the average baseball fan (Johnson’s no-hitter) was probably a boring game, but to the baseball junkies that was probably one of the really good games.”

Gardendale         200 001 –   3  5  0

Oxford                  012 019 – 13 13  1
WP: Peyton Watts. LP: Eli Moore. 2B: Caiden Combs (G), Carter Johnson (O), Forrest Heacock (O), Hayes Harrison (O). HR: Sam Robertson (O)..


OXFORD (1)(31-5)GARDENDALE (0)(24-9)
Sam Robertson, ss4031Nick Rigdon, cf2000
Peyton Watts, 2b3010J.D. Salters, ss3000
Hayes Harrison, 1b4010Kyle Norris, rf3000
Caleb Robertson, cr0000Caiden Combs, 3b2000
Carter Johnson, p2010Jackson Burdette, cr0000
R.J. Brooks, cf2000Cooper Jarvis, dh3000
Dalton Fink, cr0000Ty McGraw, 1b1000
Chance Griner, lf3000Connor Hensley, c3000
Hudson Gilman, dh3010Bryson Barnes, 2b2000
Tide Gann, rf3110William Chandler, lf1000
Miguel Mitchell, 3b3000Logan Fitzgerald, p0000
Caleb Thomas, c0000
Totals28 1 8 1Totals20 0 0 0
Carter Johnson (W)700029
Logan Fitzgerald (L)781114

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