Johansen lifts Suns to Game 1 win

Second-rounder throws five scoreless innings in Sally Finals

Jake Johansen struck out 44 batters over 42 1/3 short-season innings. (Auburn Doubledays)

By Ashley Marshall / | September 9, 2013 6:53 PM

If Washington farmhand Jake Johansen was nervous about making his postseason debut in the opener of a championship series, it certainly didn't show.

The second-round pick surrendered three hits and a pair of walks while striking out two over five shutout innings as the Class A Advanced Hagerstown Suns took Game 1 of their best-of-5 South Atlantic League Finals with a 3-1 win over the Savannah Sand Gnats.

"I feel like I handled the game pretty well," said Johansen, who learned Saturday he would be starting the opener. "I went with the same mind-set, no pressure. I'm excited to win Game 1. We have one more home game tomorrow, then if we win that, we only need to win one out of three games away. Tonight was critical for us.

"It's a huge honor. To come from short season to high-A in the playoffs and start Game 1 is huge."

The 22-year-old spent most of the season with short-season Auburn. He posted a 1-1 record with a 1.06 ERA in 10 New York-Penn League starts before his promotion to Hagerstown, where he was 0-2 in his only two appearances.

Monday marked his first playoff appearance in pro ball and his first time on the mound since going 4 2/3 innings for the Suns on Aug. 31.

Drafted out of Dallas Baptist University, the Nationals' No. 20 prospect worked around consecutive walks in the first inning, a leadoff single in the fourth and a pair of two-out singles in the fifth.

"I think in my first two starts [with Hagerstown], I was trying to do too much and I was getting around the ball," Johansen said. "Tonight I just went out there and challenged hitters with my fastball. I was more on top of the baseball, so I forced ground balls.

"Game 1 is the biggest game to set the tone for the series. To get the win tonight, we've put the team in the best situation to win the series."

Offensively, No. 19 prospect Tony Renda delivered the offense for the Suns, plating all three runs with a third-inning RBI groundout and a two-run double in the fifth.

Designated hitter Wander Ramos finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored and No. 9 hitter Stephen Perez reached base three times and drove in two for the Suns, who edged the West Virginia Power in the semifinals.

Game 2 takes place in Hagerstown on Tuesday before the series moves to Savannah on Thursday.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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