Johnson fired after Aggies slip to ninth

Originally Published: May 24, 2005
By Will Kimmey | Baseball America

Texas A&M fired coach Mark Johnson Monday after a 30-25-1 season, and he exited with the same class he displayed during his 21 years with the Aggies.

"I've been honored and proud to be associated with Texas A&M, in all the tradition and loyalties and patriotism, all the things this university stands for, its honor system and values," Johnson said."I'm proud I can say those haven't been compromised on my watch."

Johnson's Aggies lost two of three games to Texas in their final series of the year, finishing in ninth place in the Big 12 Conference with a 9-18 record, Johnson's worst record at the school. Texas A&M began the year ranked No. 13 but struggled offensively all season, scoring 3.6 runs per game in Big 12 play, and missed its league tournament for the first time since 1994, when it played in the Southwest Conference.

Athletic director Bill Byrne informed him of the decision Sunday night in a meeting once Johnson and the team returned from Austin.

"I respect and admire Mark for his character and he has always represented Texas A&M with a great deal of class and integrity," said Byrne, who took over as AD in December 2002 after a stint as Nebraska's AD. "However, our baseball program did not meet our expectations and I feel we need a change in direction."

Johnson, 59, went 876-433-3 at Texas A&M, reaching 13 NCAA tournaments and two College World Series (1993 and 1999). His club is a year removed from a 42-22 season in which it advanced to the super regionals after beating defending national champion Rice on its home field in the regional. He sidestepped a question about whether his track record merited a reprise for one underachieving season.

"We're in a different cycle now," he said. "It's tough for the athletics directors. The culture's completely different than when I got in. And I don't have a lot of fault with that as much as I do with just our profession, making sure that we're still in a life skills profession and we don't compromise to be receptive to the pressure that's on now.

"If I had it all to do over again and you told me I'd be fired, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat."

Around the Nation
• The Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game between Southern and Prairie View A&M was suspended Sunday night after several rounds of gunfire were heard outside the stadium. Local police attributed the gunfire to a fight between rival gangs and cleared the teams and conference to resume play after a half-hour delay, but it was suspended until Monday morning for the safety of the fans and players.

Southern's Brandon Mason opened the bottom of the 15th inning with a triple when the shots rang out. Prairie View walked the bases loaded upon the game's resumption, then walked in the winning run to lose 6-5. Prairie View had scored twice in the ninth inning Sunday to force extras.

"Tonight, I witnessed one of the saddest things that can ever exist: gunfire in the vicinity of a ball field," Southern coach Roger Cador told the Baton Rouge Advocate on Sunday.

Quinnipiac earned its first NCAA Tournament bid by defeating Monmouth 7-3 in the Northeast Conference championship game Monday morning. Freshman John Delaney led the Bobcats to victory with three hits and as many RBI. Junior right-hander Chris Wakefield threw a one-hitter against Sacred Heart earlier in the tournament.

Baylor's postseason hopes dimmed a tad Monday when the Bears found out junior first baseman Kyle Reynolds would miss at least two weeks of action after breaking his left thumb Saturday. Reynolds, son of former big leaguer Craig Reynolds, leads Baylor with eight home runs and 11 stolen bases, adding .270/.343/.450 numbers.

Oral Roberts completed two impressive pitching feats in a doubleheader win at Chicago State. Junior left-hander Taylor McIntyre became the first pitcher to throw a nine-inning no-hitter in school history while recording 10 strikeouts. Senior right-hander Dennis Bigley threw a shutout in the second game to earn his 40th career victory. He extended his scoreless innings streak to 28 1/3 innings and made it through the entire Mid-Continent Conference season without allowing a run in 41 1/3 innings.

• TCU junior right-hander Lance Broadway held Tulane, Conference USA's best offensive team, to four hits in a complete-game shutout. He struck out 10 batters and walked one.

Baylor senior second baseman Michael Griffin became the 11th player in Division I history to record 1,000 at-bats. His 1,000th career at-bat was much like his first, as Griffin launched a home run in each one. The Bears leadoff batter, Griffin hit .281/.329/.437 in the regular season and was leading the club with 42 runs.

Winthrop ace Kevin Slowey set a school record for career strikeouts (317) and tied the mark for career wins (27) Friday in a complete-game victory against Coastal Carolina. He struck out nine batters in the 4-2 win, though Coastal rallied to win the last two games of the series and claim the Big South Conference regular season title.

College of Charleston completed the most successful regular season in Southern Conference history with a 44-11 overall mark and a 27-3 league record, breaking the marks they set in 2004. Brett Gardner's 109 base hits also set a SoCon record, and he needs to score four more runs to tie the league mark in that category as well.

Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson became the second Division I coach (joining Texas' Augie Garrido) to win 1,500 games following a 3-0 Shockers victory Saturday at Bradley.

Fresno State hit five home runs in a 13-9 win against Louisiana Tech to tie a school record. Freshman third baseman Beau Mills hit two homers in the game, marking the fourth time he's accomplished that feat in a season in which he has homered 21 times to lead the Western Athletic Conference.

Southwest Missouri State owns the nation's longest active win streak at 11 games, and it won't be broken until next season. Despite the strong stretch run, the Bears still finished just 26-29 overall and 10-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference, missing the league tournament. Sophomore right-hander Brett Sinkbeil did his part Friday, recording a career-best 13 strikeouts in a 5-1 win against Northern Iowa. He allowed six singles and an earned run to finish the season 7-9, 4.84 with 97 strikeouts in 87 innings. His 16 decisions set a school record.

• Host Northern Colorado won the Division I Independent Invitational last weekend by defeating South Dakota State, New York Tech and Utah Valley State.

East Tennessee State senior Justin Clear played all nine positions in the season finale, a 6-5 win against High Point. He threw out a base stealer while serving as the catcher in the fifth inning and recorded a strikeout on the mound in the ninth.

Cal Poly junior left-hander Garrett Olson tied the school record for wins with his 11th on the year against UC Riverside. He struck out seven batters over eight innings and lowered his ERA to 2.66.

South Florida senior Jeremy Brand hit two home runs and drove in seven runs in his final home game, an 18-8 win against Cincinnati. It was nearly a season in one day for a hitter who finished the year batting .187-4-18.



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