Stillwater News Press

May 24, 2011

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

By Chris Day
CNHI News Service

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.

2011 All-Big 12 Baseball Awards

Big 12 Player of the Year: Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M

Big 12 Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Jungmann, Texas

Big 12 Freshman of the Year: Erich Weiss, Texas

Big 12 Newcomer of the Year: Zach Johnson, Oklahoma State

Big 12 Coach of the Year: Augie Garrido, Texas, and Rob Childress, Texas A&M.

All-Big 12 First Team

Cody Asche, Nebraska, infield

Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma, infield

Brandon Loy, Texas, infield

Max Muncy, Baylor, infield.

Erich Weiss, Texas, infield

Tyler Ogle, Oklahoma, catcher

Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech, outfield

Krey Bratsen, Texas A&M, outfield

Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M, outfield

Dane Phillips, Oklahoma State, designated hitter

David Paiz, Texas Tech, utility

Brooks Pinckard, Baylor, utility

Taylor Jungmann, Texas, starting pitcher

Michael Rocha, Oklahoma, starting pitcher

Ross Stripling, Texas A&M, starting pitcher

James Allen, Kansas State, relief pitcher

Corey Knebel, Texas, relief pitcher

All-Big 12 second team

Zach Johnson, Oklahoma State, infield

Jason King, Kansas State, infield

Cameron Seitzer, Oklahoma, infield

Tant Shepherd, Texas, infield

Kelby Tomlinson, Texas Tech, infield

Jared Womack, Oklahoma State, catcher

Jared King, Kansas State, outfield

Casey Johnson, Oklahoma, outfield

Jimmy Waters, Kansas outfield

Jonah Schmidt, Missouri, designated hitter

Gabe Weidenaar, Oklahoma State, utility

John Stilson, Texas A&M, starting pitcher

Logan Verrett, Baylor, starting pitcher

Michael Wacha, Texas A&M, starting pitcher

Casey Hauptman, Nebraska, relief pitcher

John Neely, Texas Tech

Honorable mention

Kansas: Casey Lytle, outfield; T.J. Walz, starting pitcher

Kansas State: Nick Martini, outfield

Missouri: Blake Brown, outfield, Phil McCormick, relief pitcher

Nebraska: Kash Kalkowski, outfield

Oklahoma: Evan Mistich, designated hitter, Dillon Overton, starting pitcher; Burch Smith, starting pitcher

Oklahoma State: Davis Duren, infield; Mark Ginther, infield; Chris Marlow, relief pitcher; Brad Propst, starting pitcher; Devin Shines, outfield; Mike Strong, starting pitcher.

Texas: Cole Green, starting pitcher; Paul Montalbano, outfield

Texas A&M: Kevin Gonzalez, catcher; Jacob House, infielder; Kenny Jackson, infield; Matt Juengel, designated hitter; Adam Smith, infielder

Texas Tech: Bo Altobelli, catcher; Jamodrick McGruder, infielder; Reid Redman, infielder

All-Freshman Team

Krey Bratsen, Texas A&M, outfielder

Charlie Curl, Texas A&M, infielder

Kaiana Eldredge, Kansas, infielder

Jacob Felts, Texas, catcher

Jordan John, Oklahoma, left-handed pitcher

Jared King, Kansas State, outfielder

Corey Knebel, Texas, right-handed pitcher

Trey Masek, Texas Tech, right-handed pitcher

Dillon Overton, Oklahoma, left-handed pitcher

David Paiz, Texas Tech, utility

Marky Payton, Texas, outfielder

Erich Weiss, Texas, infielder

Rob Zastryzny, Missouri, left-handed pitcher.