High School Sports

Gulfport’s Blake Johnson will stay close to home to play college baseball

Blake Johnson of the Gulfport Admirals is the Sun Herald All South Mississippi Player of the Year. Johnson verbally committed to Tulane on Tuesday.
Blake Johnson of the Gulfport Admirals is the Sun Herald All South Mississippi Player of the Year. Johnson verbally committed to Tulane on Tuesday. ttisbell@sunherald.com file

Friends and family members of Blake Johnson won’t have to travel far to watch him play on the next level.

The Gulfport standout and reigning Sun Herald Baseball Player of the Year announced Tuesday he has committed to Tulane.

“Blessed to be able to continue my academic and baseball career at Tulane University,” Johnson tweeted. “Wouldn’t be possible without God, my family, and friends.”

Johnson is coming off of a standout junior campaign where he helped lead the Admirals to the Class 6A championship series against Tupelo.

According to GHS coach Jamie McMahon, scouts have always known Johnson could handle himself behind the plate as a catcher, but it was his bat that gave them reason for pause.

Johnson put any questions to rest in 2017, hitting .351 with six homers, 17 doubles and 30 RBIs with a .483 on-base percentage and .675 slugging percentage.

“All the schools liked his defense but were iffy on his offensive side. I think when they saw his hitting come to fruition it really helped any doubts they had,” McMahon said. “I think he’s going to put up better numbers next year. His hand-eye is really good.”

Listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Johnson is more than just your average backstop.

“Most catchers are catchers,” Johnson said. “He’s an athletic catcher who could play any position on the field.”

McMahon said Johnson also boasts an above average 1.8- to 1.9-second pop time, which is how long it takes a catcher to throw to second base after receiving a pitch.

In addition to catching, which is where Tulane sees him on its depth chart, Johnson played first base and also was the Admirals’ ace, posting a 9-1 record with a 1.28 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings.

Why Tulane?

There were a number of factors that went into Johnson’s decision.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “I went on a visit the other day, toured the school and it was everything I wanted.”

Johnson credited new coach Travis Jewett as a big reason for his commitment.

“I knew Coach Jewett when he was at Vanderbilt,” Johnson said. “I’ve known him for so long. We talk pretty much every week. He was a big part of it.”

Beyond the baseball diamond, Johnson has big aspirations.

He wants to study in Tulane’s pre-med program before pursuing a career as a surgeon.

Before he can make a name for himself in the operating room, Johnson hopes to make a difference in a Green Wave uniform early on.

“I know you can’t guarantee playing time so I just want an opportunity,” he said. “(Jewett) said I definitely won’t redshirt. I’ll get a very good opportunity to play as a freshman.”

It’s not quite a pipeline just yet, but Johnson is the second recent Admiral to play baseball at Tulane, joining recent Green Wave graduate Grant Brown. Former St. Stanislaus standout Jonathan Artigues is also on Tulane’s roster.

Johnson said he committed to Tulane over offers from Penn and Southeastern Louisiana. He said Samford and Southern Miss also showed interest.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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