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Pedal to the metal
Rebels' Johnson seeks to finish with a flourish
Rebels pitcher Ethan Johnson delivers to the plate during a 2018 game at Rebel Field. - photo by File photo

SPRINGFIELD — Regardless of how the 2019 season goes, Ethan Johnson will leave quite a legacy. The Effingham County senior hurler has led the Rebels to numerous wins and wants to keep his foot on the gas this season. 

As a junior during a Region 2-AAAAA championship season, Johnson logged 67 strikeouts, gave up just 25 walks, allowed only eight runs and recorded a 0.730 ERA.

Johnson made his varsity debut as a freshman during the postseason. He got off to a sluggish start eventually found his rhythm and hasn’t looked back since.

“They called me up after the JV championship,” Johnson said. “It was a crazy thing to happen to me as a freshman. The first time (I was out there) it wasn’t so hot but the next two times it was three up, three down and nobody got on base.”

Baseball blood runs deep in Johnson’s family. His father and grandfather played.

Johnson admitted he’s never attempted another sport and it shows in his offseason regimen.

“I followed a strict throwing program and worked the smaller muscles in my shoulder to be able to throw the ball as hard as I can,” he said. “I hit the weights, did a lot of back spots, worked out my legs, worked on my mechanics to become more efficient and I studied the game more,” Johnson said. “(My goal is to have) a little more movement on the ball as far as velocity and the movement with off-speed pitches.”

When asked how much his teammates mean to him, Johnson said, “I care about them a lot. There’s a few of them where we started playing middle school ball together and we’ve been making these teams since then. There’s some new faces that have come from other schools and I’ve made good connections with them.”

Johnson describes himself as a jokester when things aren’t looking to hot on the diamond. Still, he tends to be a little bit harder on himself if he’s not doing well.

“If we are not doing good, I try to be the loose guy in the dugout that tries to joke around and keep everyone happy,” he said. “If I’m not doing well, I’m a very quiet guy. I don’t like to talk when I am mad.”

Last year’s early playoff ouster still stings Johnson but it won’t cloud his judgement. He’s laser focused on taking this team places it hasn’t been in a long time.

“I don’t like to lose a lot so any time we lose I keep it in my memory,” Johnson said. “I can tell you every stat in every game I’ve lost. It’s still fresh in my mind. I want to go farther and I’ll do anything I can to help this team go as far as we can go.

“Each year, starting off as a freshman, we’ve gone farther and farther, and increasing our record. To be able to be a senior and go farther would show all the work been paying off.”

Effingham County will open the season Feb. 11 at Rebel Field against South Effingham. It has a Feb. 7 scrimmage at Hilton Head Island, S.C.