Over a month has passed since South Carolina Gamecocks closer Tyler Johnson left a game against Clemson that ended in an 8-7 loss.
Since, South Carolina has been out out away from a win three times — and all three have ended in blown saves for the Gamecocks. The most recent of the three came Friday against Vanderbilt when the Commodores forced a tie in the top of the ninth to eventually win the game in the top of the 13th.
The three blown saves — against Auburn, Vanderbilt and Clemson — came in series where South Carolina was taken for two of the three games. In short, those three losses where the difference in SC winning three series and losing three series. A tough pill to swallow nonetheless.
However, those bullpen troubles may finally be behind South Carolina because Johnson, whose original diagnosis was shoulder soreness, is slated to return tonight when the Gamecocks take on the North Carolina Tarheels at BB&T Park in Charlotte. While there’s no guarantee Johnson makes an appearance in tonight's game, one would figure head coach Chad Holbrook wouldn’t hesitate to use his No. 1 closer against a consensus top-five team.
Johnson would certainly be an improvement over the trio of Colie Bowers, Josh Reagan and Reed Scott — who in Johnson’s place have given up eight home runs in relief work. Prior to his shutdown Johnson had appeared in five games, throwing six and two-thirds innings to allow six hits, two earned runs, two walks while striking out another 12 batters.
A junior, Johnson is a consensus top-15 draft prospect by multiple publications and led the Gamecocks with 10.2 K/9 innings pitched in 2016.