But when the Rebs finally did get a handle on the stuff Johnson was serving, they teed off on him in a big way.
Sending 14 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning, Highland exploded for seven runs on its way to a 7-1 rout of Gosnell March 17 at Ash Flat Ball Park.
The victory was the Rebels first win in 3-4A Conference play and kept the Pirates winless in the conference.
Gosnell picked up its lone run of the afternoon in the visitor's half of the third on an RBI-single from Josh Wilson.
But that was all the Pirates could get off Rebel starting hurler Payton Edmondson. Edmondson earned the win for Highland, going the distance, giving up four hits, while fanning five and walking none in seven innings of work.
Down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Highland's bats started rattling in a big way, right when the Rebs needed them the most.
Brad Harris led off the fifth with a standup triple that rolled to the fence in right-center for the Rebs.
But he was tagged out at the plate trying to come home on a fielder's choice.
With a runner on base, Justin Bryant laid down a sacrifice bunt that pushed Hughes to second.
Next up, Jeff Tate reached first on a ball that was booted by Gosnell's first baseman.
Ben Reed was responsible for the Rebs' first run of the afternoon, as he ripped a hit up the middle of the field.
Caleb Davidson followed with a hit to center that juiced the sacks for Matt Schneider. Schneider came through with a sacrifice fly that plated Tate to put Highland on top 2-1.
But the Rebels were just getting warmed up.
Major Harris was hit by a Johnson pitch and took first base the hard way, once again loading the bases.
Helping himself out big-time, Edmondson ripped a screaming double to left that drove in three runs for the Rebels.
Up for the second time in the fifth, Brad Harris then scored Edmondson with a hit up the middle of the field. Matt Hughes followed that with a single to left that ended up being the hit that chased Johnson off the hill. He was replaced by Josh Wilson.
Bryant reached on an error at short and then Tate wrapped up Highland's big inning with a hot shot back to the pitcher that scored the last run of the fifth.
When the smoke cleared from the fifth, the Rebels had sent 14 hitters to the plate, racked up six hits and scored seven runs, to take a 7-1 lead.
Edmondson finished things off by facing just one hitter over the minimum in the last two frames, giving Highland a six-run victory over the visiting Pirates.