06/13/13 — Aycock grad Johnson officially signs with Methodist

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Aycock grad Johnson officially signs with Methodist

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 13, 2013 1:47 PM

A young left-hander with plenty of room to mature?

Tom Austin just couldn't pass up the chance to recruit Gregory Johnson, a vastly improving pitcher for Charles B. Aycock.

No sir.

Johnson, in turn, couldn't pass up playing for Austin, a well-respected coach who has built Methodist University into a perennial NCAA Division III juggernaut during his three-plus decades in the dugout. The two-year varsity performer officially announced his intentions by signing a grant-in-aid with the USA South Conference school Wednesday afternoon.

"I visited the campus twice," a grinning Johnson said. "When I went back the second time, that sealed the deal. I really wanted to stay closer to home so I could be with my family and get the opportunity to have them support me (at home games).

"Coach Austin really enjoys it, takes pride in it and that's something that I like. The stability is something that I wanted to have (for my career). It's the same way with (CBA head) Coach (Charles) Davis ... straight and narrow, you do it right and you'll be there to win."

Win, indeed.

Johnson helped lead the Golden Falcons to a runner-up finish in the 2012 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A championship series. The team logged 18 wins this past season, and claimed the Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Methodist emerged an automatic qualifier to the postseason after it won the USA South tournament championship this past spring. The program has captured 13 regular-season crowns and produced 36 All-Americans under Austin's watchful eye.

The Pride advanced to the NCAA title game in 1995.

"I think Gregory is going to go in there and do well, it's a good decision on his part," Davis said. "His best assets are being left-handed and his size. I really feel like his best years are ahead of him, he's still growing and maturing.

"He's going to continue to get better and better."

A finesse pitcher who doesn't attempt to overpower a batter, Johnson increased his work rate during the offseason. He gained some movement and velocity on his fastball, which tops out around 84 miles per hour.

His off-speed stuff -- a change-up and breaking ball -- has improved as well.

Davis anticipates another year of maturity will undoubtedly benefit Johnson, who has a competitive edge and winner's mentality that also drew attention from Austin.

"I need my fastball to be a little more dominant. I feel like I can compete, but I won't be that dominant pitcher he's looking for," said Johnson, who plans to major in business administration and minor in religious studies.

"I've learned what it takes to win (at Aycock) and learned what it takes to get to the next level, especially in the postseason. It's not about how you start, but how you finish."