Under other circumstances, Douglas Johnson would be starting classes at Southern Union Community College in Wadley, Ala., on Tuesday.
Instead — and largely because of Johnson’s pitching efforts — he’ll be in Shelby, N.C., with his Troy (Ala.) Post 70 teammates as they pursue an American Legion World Series title.
After yielding three runs in the top of the first inning, Johnson settled in for a 5-3 complete game victory over Midland (Mich.) Post 165 on Monday afternoon in the semifinals of the 2022 ALWS at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
“I might have been a little too anxious,” Johnson said of his slow start. “I'm lucky to have a team that hits as well as this team does.”
They did so again on Monday with one run in the bottom of the first, two in the third and — after a 44-minute rain delay — with a game-deciding two-run fifth.
The win advances Troy (31-6) to the championship game of the 95th American Legion World Series on Tuesday.
Johnson, who tossed a four-hitter in a 13-1 win over Shrewsbury in last Thursday's ALWS opener, tossed a six-hitter on Monday with six strikeouts.
“Doug’s been a steady hand all season,” Troy coach Ross Hixon said of Johnson. “He ended up with 93 pitches and a complete game and that was after throwing 20-something pitches in the first inning. He had to calm himself down after that first inning and get back into the flow.
“After he took that first punch, he was fine.”
With Johnson yielding only three hits and three other baserunners in the final six innings, the rest was up to Troy’s offense.
Brooks Bryan (2 hits) led the attack that pecked away at two Midland pitchers for six hits, five walks and three hit batters to score their five runs.
Shelton Arroryo’s RBI single drove in the first inning run, a wild pitch and passed ball accounted for the two-run third and Ethan Cox’s home run to left field and Darryl Lee’s two-out RBI double made it 5-3 in the fifth.
Johnson finished with a flourish as third baseman Arroryo started a double play that went through second baseman Tanner Taylor and first baseman Will Powell to end the game.
“These guys like to win,” said Hixon, whose team is making its first ALWS appearance. “I like to win. So while it was great getting here, they still play to win. Now we have an opportunity to win it all. No matter the outcome tomorrow, to have a chance to play in the title game is exciting.”
Troy’s title game appearance is only the third in ALWS history for an Alabama team with the others coming in back-to-back years; Tuscaloosa finished as runner-up in 1966 and won the title in 1967.
Midland finished 41-10 after its 11th ALWS appearance. Post 165, which won the title in 2009, has finished among the top four six times since 1996.
In Monday’s season-ending loss, Zack Parker (2 hits) and Logan McCoy (2 hits, 1 RBI) led Midland’s 6-hit offense.