Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
May 31, 2012Hobbs Johnson popped into Carolina's starting pitching rotation like a mushroom in the morning about two-thirds of the way through this baseball season.
Now he has come so far, the sophomore left-hander will start the first game of the 2012 NCAA tournament for UNC against Ivy League champion Cornell.
A year ago, Johnson nearly lost his opportunity to even be a Tar Heel by failing to get the job done on or off the field.
"He did what [former Tar Heel] Matt Harvey did: He grew up," Coach Mike Fox said. "He got on his own and figured it out. 'This is what I have to do if I'm going to be successful. This is the commitment level. This is the work ethic.'
"He started doing it academically first, and it translated into the baseball. He's a terrific kid, and he listens. We just told him, 'You're not going to make it here if don't do this, this and this.' And he goes, 'Then that is exactly what I'm going to do.'
"Some kids will listen to you, but they'll say they're going to do something but they won't for whatever reason," Fox said. "Hobbs was extremely determined that he was not going to be one of those casualties."
Fox said Johnson is so talented that he may be the best pro prospect on the team. Johnson demonstrated his gifts when he carried a perfect game into the eighth inning against Virginia Tech on May 19.
"Being comfortable definitely helps," Johnson said. "Whereas, last year I came in and I was like, 'Wow, these guys are really good.' In high school there would be one or two good players [for the opposition]. Here you are facing the one or two good players that were on all those teams.
"You definitely feel confident when you go out there and do well against them. Last year there would be a guy who got in the box, and I would be like, 'This guy is really a good hitter; I can't do something.' This year I attack each and every hitter.
"Now it is the mentality I had in high school," Johnson said. "There wasn't a guy who got into the box that I did not feel I couldn't get out or wasn't better than."
Johnson has pitched 52.2 innings this season, but has started just six times. His record is 6-1, and his earned run average is a sparkling 1.37.
After his nearly perfect performance against Virginia Tech, there is no doubt he is the real deal.
"He threw three innings for us last year, and now he is a weekend starter for us," Fox said. "He's an incredible story. I will use that for the rest of my career, not to give up and to keep working.
"I'm very happy for that boy."