Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

From delayed debut to star: Johnson rises as Texas baseball’s Friday night pitcher

Skyler Sharp
Redshirt junior pitcher Lebarron Johnson Jr. steps forward to pitch the ball on Feb. 16, 2024. Johnson forced six strikeouts to help the Longhorns win 7-3 in the season opener against San Diego.

Entering the spring season, Texas baseball was pleasantly surprised to find its star pitcher Lebarron Johnson Jr. back on the roster after he gained eligibility for the 2023 MLB draft at the end of last season.

The player from Jacksonville, Florida has returned for his fourth year on the Forty Acres, already receiving preseason accolades of Big 12 Preseason Pitcher of the Year and being named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list, an award that honors the top amateur baseball player. Johnson ended last season with a 2.91 earned run average and held his opponents to a .213 batting average across 20 appearances on the mound.

Johnson is one of few upperclassmen on the team who has spent their entire collegiate career representing Texas, arriving as a freshman back in 2021. It wouldn’t be until the following season that Johnson would make his debut, as he didn’t see the field once during his first year. 

But this was never a setback for Johnson, only a reason to motivate himself to put the necessary work in outside of scheduled practices. 

“While they (traveled), I came into the field and got as much work in as possible,” Johnson said. “I would ride my bike because I didn’t have a car at the time. I would come before practice and after practice … I was just adamant about anything that I was bad at.” 

After a quiet year of being a redshirt freshman in 2022, pitching for a combined total of 17 innings, Johnson’s dedication began to pay off, as he started in 13 games and pitched against every weekend opponent the next year. 

As a redshirt sophomore, Johnson stepped up during crucial moments for the Longhorns. He pitched 6.1 scoreless innings and recorded his career high of 12 strikeouts against TCU, allowed one run across three innings versus Texas A&M and tossed his first complete game with eight strikeouts against Miami during the NCAA Regional. 

Since his explosive 2023 season, Johnson has been recognized by his teammates and staff as someone they can trust to be on the mound. He currently stands as the team’s Friday starting pitcher, a role he said he has prepared for and admired since the beginning.  

“He’s a centerpiece of our pitching staff,” senior first baseman Jack O’Dowd said. “He’s a guy that the team can really lean on. He doesn’t say much, but when he says something, the guys listen and trust him. They trust his work. … He came in and put a lot of time into his craft, … and I know that the pitchers have learned a lot from that.”   

In his latest performance on Friday against Cal Poly, Johnson tossed a shutout through eight innings, allowing no runs and only two hits alongside eight strikeouts. His efforts kickstarted a 15–0 series sweep for the Longhorns against the Mustangs as he picked up his first personal win of the season. Johnson was also recognized as the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week the following Monday.      

Head coach David Pierce continues to praise Johnson’s work ethic, describing how his humility and passion to keep improving makes it easy to support him. 

“He’s deserved everything he’s got because he’s worked for it, not only just the physical work but also just the absorption of understanding the game,” Pierce said. “He’s just a wonderful kid that does everything on and off the field the right way.”

Despite the pressure that comes with being such a trusted player, Johnson said he doesn’t focus on the crowd or the weight of preseason honors, just what he can do to make his team the most successful it can be. 

“I’m not going to say I can’t show weakness, because everybody has weakness,” Johnson said. “But (it’s about) showing the guys that I can do it. I got your back. I got their back. They got my back. I’m going to go out there and be more consistent.”


More to Discover
About the Contributor
Emma Hutchinson, Senior Sports Reporter
Emma is a journalism sophomore from Prosper, Texas and is probably watching Dallas Mavericks highlights as you read this. She currently works on the women’s basketball beat as a senior reporter, but has previously reported on men’s swim and dive and softball. In addition to watching the Mavericks, she enjoys spending her free time with the people she loves most, usually by grabbing some coffee or boba with them.