ROCKINGHAM — Producing at the plate has landed senior baseball player Alston Johnson the title of the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week presented by HWY 55.
Earning a win over Lumberton last Wednesday, Johnson and the Raiders also opened the Terry Sanford Easter Invitational with a win against South View on Saturday.
A three-year varsity starter at second base, Johnson proved pivotal in the leadoff spot, which helped him earn his first career recognition.
Birthday: Aug. 28, 2004
Spring Sport: Baseball
Position: Second Base
Years on Varsity: 3 years
Experience: 13 years
“LEADING OFF” WITH ALSTON JOHNSON
In two wins last week, the Raiders started what is now a current five-game winning streak. Richmond defeated non-conference Lumberton 11-5 on Senior Night, before bouncing South View 9-3 in the opening round of the spring break tournament.
Making opposing pitchers pay from the leadoff spot, Johnson went a combined 5-for-6 at the plate in those two games. He rattled off a pair of doubles, three singles and drew two walks.
Johnson was also responsible for scoring five runs between those two games, including three runs against the Pirates, a game where he went 4-for-4 at the dish.
As part of a five-run first inning against Lumberton, Johnson led off the game with a double to left field. He scored two at-bats later on an RBI single by Matthew Walker.
A leadoff single in the bottom of the second by Johnson saw him later score on a Walker RBI groundout. In his two other at-bats, Johnson connected for a double in the fourth (scored on a Cameron Way double) and a single in the fifth.
Also a defensive staple at second base, Johnson helped turn two double plays in the win.
In Saturday’s victory over the Tigers, Johnson notched a single in the top of the third inning. He also drew two walks and scored two runs, one in the first inning and the other in the fifth inning.
Through 18 games this season, Johnson is batting .308 with 16 total hits. He’s collected 11 singles, four doubles and a home run, and has an on-base percentage of .464. Johnson also leads the team in stolen bases with 13.
Richmond (13-5, 5-5 SAC) will resume Sandhills Athletic Conference action on Tuesday at rival Scotland High School (15-4, 8-2 SAC).
Senior Alston Johnson slides head-first for one of his three runs scored in a win over Lumberton on Wednesday. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)
RAPID RESPONSES WITH ALSTON JOHNSON
ROSports: What has been working well for you at the plate lately to allow you to reach base?
Johnson: “I’ve really been trying to hunt the fastball. In varsity baseball, pitchers’ offspeed pitches have gotten better each year so I go up and try to attack each at-bat.
“I go up and try to hit them as good as I can, and I think about what I’m supposed to be doing in each situation. I really just want to help the team win any way I can.”
ROSports: Explain your role as the leadoff hitter and how do you approach each at-bat during games?
Johnson: “I view my role as the leadoff hitter as trying to get on base by any means necessary. Whether that’s putting the ball in play or forcing a walk, my job is to just get on base.
“If pitchers aren’t throwing strikes, I can be patient. And when they are throwing strikes, I don’t want to get behind in the count and swing the bat to see what I can do.”
ROSports: What’s the current vibe of the team as you guys head into the final stretch of the regular season?
Johnson: “We’ve been playing really good baseball the past two weeks, and our whole lineup has been crazy hot.
“The team has played good defense and our pitching has done well. We started off slow, but now we are playing like we should be, and we have a team that can win a lot of games.”
The Richmond Observer will publish its Official Richmond County Female Athlete of the Week soon.