Texas’ batting order is filled with players that can change a game at any given moment, but few have more consistency at the plate than junior left fielder Ben Johnson.
Take the start of Tuesday night’s game against Incarnate Word: Johnson wasted no time sparking the Longhorn offense, leading off the bottom of the first inning with an infield single to third base on the first pitch he saw. Johnson then hustled to third base when the throw to first sailed into foul territory and scored on a double by the next batter.
That lone run was the first of seven Texas scored in an easy midweek win, and it’s the latest instance of Johnson using both his skill at the plate and hustle on the base paths to get the Longhorns going.
“My job as the leadoff man is to get on-base and find a way to score a run,” Johnson said. “That’s my goal every time I get up to the plate.”
Going into Tuesday’s game, Johnson led the Longhorns — and the Big 12 — with a .433 batting average and was fourth in the league with a .481 on-base percentage. He’s also coming off of memorable weekend at Stanford, where he hit two home runs in the series opener last Thursday night and went 5-for-5 with two RBI in Sunday’s finale.
Johnson said one of the biggest keys for his success has been attacking the ball early in the count.
“I’m not sure what the number is, but the majority of my hits have been on the first few pitches to me at bat,” Johnson said. “It’s just looking for a pitch you’re going to get, and once you get it, take advantage of it and don’t miss it.”
While his statistics paint a great picture, it’s what doesn’t show up in the box score — hustle — that has really made Johnson a leader in Texas’ lineup.
In the Longhorns’ home opener, Johnson took full advantage of a mistake by the UTSA center fielder. Johnson converted what should have been a single into a three-base error when the ball rolled under the outfielder’s glove and all the way to the wall.
“What [Johnson and senior right fielder Collin Shaw] really are is they hustle,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “They use their speed to get two bases instead of one on-base hits a lot.”
Texas now opens up conference play beginning with a three-game series at home against West Virginia this weekend and another three-game set versus Kansas State next weekend.
As the games get increasingly important, Johnson’s plan is simple: to do more of what he’s already doing.
“[I’ll] just do whatever it takes to get on-base, whether that’s getting a hit, taking a walk or getting hit by a pitch — find a way to get on and get in,” Johnson said.