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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Johnson, baseball squad make smart baserunning priority

Junior Micah Johnson’s offseason focus was simple: Become a great base stealer.
So during the summer, the Indianapolis native played with the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League under Coach Mike Roberts, father of Major League Baseball player Brian Roberts.

IU Coach Tracy Smith said the Hoosiers specifically chose Roberts as a summer coach for Johnson because of his ability to teach stealing techniques.

“Mike Roberts does a really good job teaching base stealing, witnessed by his son Brian,” Smith said. “I wanted Micah for that reason alone, to go out there and pick up some of the nuances of base stealing.”

Johnson has always relied on his speed and said Roberts taught him many of the finer points of stealing a base.

“It’s always been just speed for me, and I didn’t really know what pitch to go on or how to steal off of a lefty or how to steal third so easily,” Johnson said.

“Out there, I would steal third standing up a lot of times, and I would get leads off lefties and steal then. Coach Roberts really helped me with that.”

Last season, Johnson stole 19 bases on 22 attempts while batting .335 and scoring 43 runs, hitting in front of now-graduated sluggers Alex Dickerson and Jerrud Sabourin for most of the season.

Although Johnson took chances, the speedy second baseman was not given the green light on the base paths as much in 2011 because of the risk of being thrown out while the dependable Dickerson or Sabourin was at the plate.

“Last year, we realized that home runs were not going to be the name of the game,” Johnson said. “My power numbers were down and Dickerson’s were down, so I think skip did a good job of recruiting speed.”

This year, Smith will rely on junior center fielder Justin Cureton, sophomore shortstop Dustin DeMuth and the surprisingly fast freshman Kyle Schwarber — a 6-foot, 230-pound catcher from Middletown, Ohio — to complement Johnson in the running game.

While DeMuth and Schwarber will not be the main threats, Johnson and Cureton — who finished second at IU with 16 steals last year — will be free to run at will if they prove they choose good times to run on their own.

“If they prove they are selecting good pitches and good counts to steal on, I’ll probably continue to allow them the freedom to steal,” Smith said. “The intention is to let those mustangs run a little bit.”

Heading into the season, Johnson was slotted by Baseball America as the Big Ten’s
fifth-best product.

He also received third-team preseason All-American honors.

With this season approaching, Johnson’s sole focus will be channeling his newly acquired weapon into victories on the field, a step Johnson said he believes his team is ready for.

“If you really want to win games, it’s going to be from turning a single into a triple by stealing second and third,” Johnson said. “Speed is going to be the name of our game this year.”

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