Stillwater News Press

OSU Sports

May 24, 2011

Oklahoma State's Zach Johnson picked as Big 12 Newcomer of the Year

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State University baseball team’s first baseman Zach Johnson is the 2011 Big 12 Conference’s Newcomer of the Year, league officials announced Tuesday.

“I was a little surprised, but very honored,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of good players, especially newcomers this year.”

Johnson, a junior, has been an offensive marvel this season.  

He has hit safely in 46 of the 54 games and opened the season with a 16-game hitting streak.

The San Ramon, Calif., native and Ohlone Junior College transfer ranks in the top three in the Big 12 in seven offensive categories:

• Batting average – .351

• Home runs – 11

• RBI – 56

• Runs scored – 48

• Doubles – 20

• Slugging percentage – .629

• Total bases – 127

He leads the team with 15 multiple-RBI games, including five games in which he recorded four RBI. On April 29 against Kansas State, he became the first Cowboy since 2003 to hit for the cycle. In 2010, he was a 48th-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s, but opted for a college career at Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma State skipper Frank Anderson expected big things from Johnson because of his attitude and work ethic.

“He doesn’t have many highs or lows. He goes about practice like a professional player,” Anderson said. “He’s a pretty quiet kid and comes to play everyday.”

It’s been difficult hitting Big 12 pitching, Johnson said, but his biggest adjustment came at first base – a position he hadn’t played until this system.

“I can’t remember ever playing first,” Johnson said. “I’m only 5-11. I never really had the chance.”

The footwork and receiving throws from other infielders as well as fielding from the right side of the diamond were his biggest challenges, Johnson said.

“As the season has gone on, I’ve gotten better with a lot of practice and feel pretty confident there now,” he said.

Johnson and the Cowboys (34-21, 14-12 Big 12) open the Big 12 Conference Tournament at 9 a.m. Wednesday against Baylor (29-24, 13-14 Big 12) at RedHawks Field at Bricktown in Oklahoma City.

It’s the Pokes’ first appearance in the conference tournament since 2008. Baylor took two of three from O-State in Stillwater earlier this month.

The Cowboys will probably start left-handed pitcher Mike Strong (5-1) against Baylor. The tournament returns to a double-elimination format this season.

“In JUCO, we played the same type of format in our regionals,” Johnson said. “It will definitely help us.”

The Cowboys will rely on pitching and defense, Johnson said, and scratch out runs.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
OSU Sports
Stilly Studio