Brian Johnson couldn't remember a time when he recorded as many strikeouts as he did Friday night.
"I think the most I'd ever had, even going back to college, was nine," the University of Florida product said. "I never have had this before."
Over seven dominant innings, the Red Sox's No. 12 prospectfanned 12 batters, reaching double digits in punchouts for the first time in his career. Behind a one-hit effort by Johnson and an early sacrifice fly from Sean Coyle, Portland blanked New Britain, 1-0.
"I don't know who it was on the team that brought it up, I didn't realize it," Johnson said, referring to his stack of K's. "I knew I had struck out a good amount, but I didn't realize it was 12. I just thought it was maybe five or six or seven. I didn't really put two and two together."
The 2012 first-round pick (31st overall) rang up two strikeouts in the first, one in the second, two in the third and fourth, three in the fifth and two more in the seventh. Nine times, a Rock Cat swung through strike three.
Johnson (9-2) lowered his ERA to an Eastern League-leading 2.13. He ranks second with a 1.09 WHIP and .219 opponents' average.
The one hit marked his lowest hit total since April 18, when he threw six no-hit innings for Class A Advanced Salem.
Johnson kept the Rock Cats off the bases until the third, when Kyle Knudson reached on a throwing error by third baseman Michael Almanzar with two outs. The play was initially ruled a hit. One batter later, Stephen Wickens got aboard on an infield single to shortstop Ryan Dent. The southpaw got out of it by striking out Major League veteran Aaron Hicks.
That was one of many punchouts for Johnson.
"I got ahead in the count and threw my breaking balls well when I had to," he said. "I think maybe [the breaking ball] probably helped me late in the count put away some hitters and even get ahead early in the count."
The 23-year-old sailed through the fourth and fifth before walking Hicks in the sixth. In his seventh and final frame, he whiffed Kennys Vargas, walked Brandon Waring, got Mike Kvasnicka to pop out, walked Matt Koch and fanned Brad Boyer.
"Me and [catcher] Blake Swihart got into a rhythm pretty early in the game and we just went from there," Johnson said. "I can't take any of the credit. I don't think I shook him off once, to be honest. It's always fun throwing to him, throwing to somebody with that talent like Blake."
Swihart led the Sea Dogs with three hits. In the third, he moved Shannon Wilkerson over to third, setting up Coyle for the decisive sacrifice fly. Wilkerson started the inning by lining a single to left.
Noe Ramirez earned his 11th save, walking one and striking out one over two hitless innings.
New Britain starter Adrian Salcedo (1-7) gave up one run and three hits across three innings. He walked one batter and struck out one.