WOODRUFF — Jimmy Johnson watched helplessly as his twin brother writhed in pain at home plate on Wednesday night. Then, he made up his mind to finish what they’d started.
The pitcher/catcher duo had been especially in-sync during the first three innings of Union County’s region opener versus Woodruff and Jimmy was working on a shutout, one-hitter when his brother suffered a knee injury that froze the game for nearly an hour.
The Jackets held a 5-0 lead when Charles stepped to the plate for his fourth inning at-bat and sent a line-drive into right field. During his follow-through, the Jackets’ catcher hyper-extended his knee and crumpled to the ground.
Jimmy was out of the dugout in a heartbeat.
“I just kept wondering what was wrong and how bad it was,” said Jimmy.
Coaches, teammates and parents were not far behind and eventually Charles was removed from the field and transported to Spartanburg Regional where he was treated for a dislocated right knee.
Back in Woodruff, play was resumed and Union County was looking to protect a 5-0 lead. In the bottom of the fourth, Jimmy re-took the mound and Troy Millwood filled Charles’ position behind the plate.
Jimmy walked the first batter of the inning and allowed two hits on one out to load the bases for Woodruff. Then he remembered what his brother told him from the back of the ambulance.
“He told me to finish it,” said Jimmy. “And I told him I would.”
It was gut-check time and the junior right-hander battled, striking out the next two batters he faced to escape the inning with the 5-0 lead intact.
After the rocky fourth inning, Johnson settled in and allowed just three base-runners in three innings (two hits and a error) to complete the shutout with two walks, six strikeouts and six hits allowed.
Union County collected all five of its runs in the third inning. Will Palmer and Charles Johnson were issued back to back walks to start the inning.
With runners on first and third Mark Jeter laid down a perfect bunt that baffled the Woodruff infield and allowed Palmer to score. Recus Hughes followed with an RBI double to right field and Dustin West belted out a 2-run double. West crossed home on a RBI single courtesy of Juwuan Rice.
West and Hughes finished the evening with two hits and two RBI apiece. Michael Todd Harris contributed a single in the top of the first.
Woodruff hitting: Jason Taylor 2-4 (singled in the fifth and seventh), Gist 1-3, Arnold 1-3, Ramsey 1-3, Nelson 1-3.