HT Baseball player of the year: Owens led crop of successful Cardinal seniors
JOHANNESBURG — On May 7 of this year the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball squad found itself in a tricky spot.
It was a gray day in Mancelona when the Cardinals took on the Ironmen in a makeup game that traveled into extra innings. During all nine innings, J-L senior Gunnar Owens pitched a solid game, throwing with velocity that moved throughout the strike zone.
With one out and the tying runner in scoring position, a Mancelona team that later made the semifinals of the Division 3 state tournament sniffed at a dramatic bottom-of-the-ninth comeback.
After throwing well over 100 pitches, nobody would blame Owens if his arm felt a little too tight to continue, but instead, he threw pitches past the final two batters to seal a 5-4 victory for the Cardinals with a pair of strikeouts. The game stood as a mid season rally point and helped fuel one of the most successful seasons in school history.
“It was obviously a very successful season for us,” Owens said. “We were 32-6 and won Districts, which was my biggest team goal for this year. My goal personally was to be one of the top pitchers in the area.”
After the season ended, there was no doubt that both goals were covered. The first goal came with a 13-2 victory over Hillman in the District finals.
Not only was Owens recognized for his pitching ability in the Ski Valley Conference, but the accolades grew to the state level with a spot on the All-State team.
In 78 1/3 innings of work, Owens struck out 101 batters while walking 22. He threw for a 12-1 record with two saves.
Opposing batters faced steep odds against Owens, notching on average one hit every two innings and well under a base runner of any kind per inning. Owens ended the season with a 0.92 ERA.
“Pitching that much was new to me,” Owens said. “I pitched in the past but very little. It started last year when I threw a little, and I think coach (Rick) Guild and everyone else saw that I could pitch.”
Pitching was just one of the trio of skills that made Owens the area’s top player. This was his first season as the team’s ace pitcher. Before that, he staked his claim as one of the area’s top catchers. This season, when not on the mound, he threw out 16 runners from his catcher position.
As a strong hitter, Owens batted .432 with 30 runs, 38 RBIs and 30 steals and only struck out six times all season long.
The luxury of a battery of experienced seniors this season allowed coach Rick Guild to back off at times and let the experience take over.
“A lot of us have had four years to build chemistry with each other, so this year it was like we had six coaches on the team,” said Owens. “If something happened in practice, the younger guys would look to the seniors to help get them going. Practices were a lot harder, a lot more challenging and game-like. Also spending plenty of time together on the weekends and the team really came together. It helped the team in the long run.”
Owens continues to play baseball this summer for the Lewiston American Legion team and college baseball sits around the corner with a commitment to Albion College.
“I would like to become an athletic trainer eventually,” said Owens, with a major in exercise studies. “I would also like to try out for semipro either in college or after college and if that goes well, try out for the big show.”
Four SVC players make All-State team
OTSEGO COUNTY — Johannesburg-Lewiston added further proof of its team and individual success this season on the baseball diamond with three athletes taking Division 4 First Team All-State honors to go along with six taking All-Region medals.
Gunnar Owens, Brett Kortman and Brian VanCoillie took All-State medals from the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association as final accolades of their high school careers.
“These three kids had a phenomenal year,” said veteran Cardinal coach Rick Guild. “They really played well.”
The trio hold the statistics to back up Guild’s statements.
Owens made the state team as a pitcher this season. He finished with a 12-1 record with two saves and an anemic 0.92 earned run average. The versatile right-hander also threw out 16 would-be stolen bases from his catcher position when not on the mound.
A batting average of .432 with 38 RBIs and just six strikeouts in 104 at bats sealed the All-State deal for Owens.
Kortman received his nod for infield play as well as a .530 batting average. In 100 at bats, Kortman crossed the plate 48 times and knocked in 44 runs.
VanCoillie, named for his play in the outfield, collected 40 RBIs in 112 at bats, scoring 57 times. He stole 62 bases and frequently used a wide range to cover his position in center field.
St. Mary senior Karli Jacob made the Division 4 Softball Honorable Mention All-State team. She had a steady season as an infielder for the Snowbirds.
Jacob batted .422 with a .563 slugging percentage this year with 19 runs and 22 RBIs. She was also strong with the glove, turning in a .975 fielding percentage.
OTSEGO COUNTY — The All-Ski Valley first team included a handful of Otsego County players, including Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Gunnar Owens, Brett Kortman, Brian VanCoillie and Alex Payne and St. Mary’s Patrick Switalski.
Second team members included Blake Huff of J-L and Brendon Nowicki, Gabe Nowicki and Nick Lochinski of St. Mary.
2012 All-Ski Valley Baseball
Pitchers: Craig Conway, Mancelona; Gunnar Owens, J-L
Catcher: Todd Schramm, Inland Lakes
Infielders: Zak Kruskie, Pellston; Brett Kortman, J-L; Kyle Schepperley, Mancelona; Aaron Lalonde, Onaway
Outfielders: Brian VanCoillie, J-L; Pat Switalski, St. Mary; Wyatt Derrer, Mancelona
At-Large: Alex Payne, J-L; Trevor Ackler, Mancelona
Pitchers: Nate Zielinski, Central Lake; Brendon Nowicki, St. Mary
Catcher: Chris Hass, Pellston
Infielders: Blake Huff, J-L; Gabe Nowicki, St. Mary; Tanner Davis, Central Lake; Adam Underwood, Bellaire
Outfielders: Cole Vanwagoner, Mancelona; Justin Gedda, Onaway; Tommy Auger, Onaway
At-Large: Nick Lochinski, St. Mary; Nick Nathan, Pellston
Andy Hamlin, Pellston; Ron Schlosser, Pellston; Coalton Huff, J-L; Logan Borst, Mancelona; Devon Suppes, Bellaire; Hunter Walsh, Bellaire; Andrew Perry, Onaway; Austin LaVigne, Inland Lakes; Bob Steile, Forest Area; Jordan Cecil, Forest Area; Derek Hurst, Forest Area; Matt Spyhalski, St. Mary; Zack Patton, Central Lake; Pat Sutherland, Central Lake.
Gaylord Herald Times
SAULT STE. MARIE — Going into the playoffs with a record of 30-5, the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team possessed thoughts of Regional gold, then quarterfinals and possibly a trip to Battle Creek for a state championship bid.
The Norway Knights obviously missed the memo that their young team lacked the experience to stay with the Cardinals.
In one inning, the Knights knocked the Cardinals into a deep hole and made enough plays in the field to keep J-L from climbing out.
With a final score of 9-3, Norway, not J-L, advanced to play for the Region trophy in Sault Ste. Marie.
“I just feel horrible for the kids because we out hit that team,” said J-L coach Rick Guild. “We had runners on base in every inning. We didn’t play that badly, just a lot of weird, strange things happened in that one inning, and that’s high school baseball.”
Norway coach Tony Adams acknowledged the bottom of the third inning as the turning point in the game.
“I knew I had a pitcher who had faced some big schools, and he hadn’t been hit that hard,” Adams said. “I said if he can pitch well, we’ll have a chance. I don’t know if we’ll win, but we will have a chance. It was the third inning, that was a big inning, and we were able to hold it together from there.”
A couple of walks, a bat hitting the glove and a couple of doubles led to five Norway runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Junior Knights pitcher John Grayvold Jr., supported by some bend-but-don’t-break defense, gave up nine hits but seemed to always make a big play when one was needed.
After Brett Kortman knocked in two runs in the top of the first, the Cardinals waited patiently until the top of the fifth inning to string together sustained offense.
Jake Newell, Gunnar Owens and Kortman each hit safely to
begin the inning and as a result, J-L sat with the bases loaded and no outs.
Brad Kussrow walked to bring home a run after a Coalton Huff fly out and Cole Nagy came to the plate with one out and the bases still filled.
With what would be a microcosm of the J-L luck, Nagy hit a rocket of a ground ball right at Norway third baseman Billy Bourg, who quickly tagged Owens running home and then made a diving tag of third base to get the force out. It was the only unassisted double play of the game.
“It’s just hard on the kids, but they had a phenomenal year, and I am so proud of them,” Guild said. “What these seniors did was phenomenal, and there will be some all-stater's. The seniors expected to do well, and they brought the other kids up and they did well. To be 32-6, I don’t know if there are any other teams in the state that have that record, and we played every big school that we could play. Today just wasn’t our day, and that’s high school baseball.”
A smiling Adams agreed with Guild’s assessment.
“Congratulations to J-L on a great season; 32 wins is something to be proud of,” Adams said. “Our kids played hard, and we are not as bad as our record. We’re just really young. Right now, they’re gaining confidence, and they are doing things the way we want them to do it, not all the time, but I’m proud. This is a big win for us.”
The Knights luck ran out against Rudyard in an all-Upper Peninsula Regional final with the Bulldogs punching a ticket to the Traverse City quarterfinal by the score of 13-4.
GAYLORD — As darkness began to fall over the St. Mary field Monday, the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball squad each shook hands with St. Mary athletic director Ben Kerfoot and accepted their District championship medals.
After players were announced, coach Rick Guild stayed in the background and let seniors Brian VanCoillie, Gunnar Owens, Brett Kortman, Nick Michael and Blake Huff accept the trophy and bring it to the rest of the team.
It was a worthy gesture by Guild, whose team easily captured the title with an 11-1 victory against Atlanta and a 13-2 triumph over Hillman.
“They are pretty special group of kids,” Guild said of his team. “You don’t get to 32-5 with a bunch of slouches. We dominated, and I thought we would, but you never know.”
A pair of big offensive innings and 13 innings of solid team defense led the Cardinals to the District crown Monday with pair of convincing victories.
First up for the Cardinals was Atlanta, which already achieved one upset in the tournament by defeating Posen 5-2 in the pre-district.
As with many victims of the Cardinals this season, the Huskies were hurt by two-out hitting.
The game’s first two runs were scored in the top of the first when a Kortman triple rolled to the fence in center field scoring VanCoillie and Owens.
Six more two-out runs came in the top of the third with RBI hits coming from Blake Huff, Coalton Huff, Cole Nagy, VanCoillie and Alex Payne.
Before the Huskies knew what hit them, 11 J-L runs had crossed the plate.
“All the kids played well,” said Guild. “Jake (Newell) threw extremely well the first game and everyone through the lineup hit. The seniors in the lineup have always stepped up and they did again today. It was a pretty special day for them.”
Under darkening skies, the Hillman Tigers kept the dangerous Cardinal bats relatively quiet through three innings of play.
Hillman stunned host St. Mary 7-6 in the earlier game and hung in with the Cardinals until the Huffs, VanCoillie, Owens and Nagy combined for a big fifth inning to put the game away, 13-2. Owens collected nine strikeouts and held the Tigers nearly hitless through the first five innings.
With district trophy in hand, J-L heads to Sault Ste. Marie Saturday to the Regional semifinal game against Norway. The Knights are 15-13 on the season.
“I think the best team there, if we play like we should play, is us,” Guild said. “Our goal is to win that region and this is step one. Whether we do or not, I don’t know, but we are going to try.” The Regional tournament begins Saturday with Rudyard playing Rogers City or Onaway in the first game.
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J-L baseball hits 30-win mark with sweep
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team propelled itself into the playoffs with a pair of lopsided victories over Whittemore-Prescott Tuesday, 16-5 and 15-0.
Rivals could clash again in St. Mary baseball District
GAYLORD — Nearly one year ago, the St. Mary baseball team stunned cross-county rival Johannesburg-Lewiston, defeating the Cardinals 12-7 to cap what was a wild District championship week.
It looks as if the scenario leading up to the District 4 Final could be similar this season with J-L (28-5) and St. Mary (12-9) lining up for another potential battle for the trophy at St. Mary Saturday.
That script would not be uncommon for a pair of teams who face each other nearly every postseason.
“It would be a great finish,” said St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki. “It’s usually a dog fight. Typically it goes right down to the wire, and that’s the way you want it to be.”
After a tough week that featured five straight losses, the Snowbirds bounced back Thursday with a 13-6 and 7-4 sweep of Inland Lakes.
“We got back to basics a bit since being swept by Pellston (May 21) and have been playing a little bit better,” Nowicki said.
J-L comes into the second season on a four-game winning streak, including a sweep of East Jordan last Monday. The last time the Cardinals felt the agony of defeat, one of only three Ski Valley Conference losses all season, was May 17 in doubleheader split with the Snowbirds.
It’s not as if the two are the only teams in the District. Pre-District action began Tuesday with Posen battling Atlanta and Hillman taking on Wolverine. Both Posen and Hillman have excellent programs with a precedent of success. St. Mary would face Hillman Saturday and J-L would play Posen if the semifinals hold serve.
J-L coach Rick Guild is not making assumptions about the earlier rounds.
“I don’t buy into it,” Guild said. “In the Districts anything can happen, and I feel like Atlanta or Posen could beat us just like Wolverine or Hillman could beat them. Baseball is a funny game where one bad inning, have a couple of errors, give up a couple of hits and that’s it. You never know what will happen in baseball.”
It should be an excellent day on the diamond Saturday, and Guild and the No. 5-ranked Cardinals are hoping to advance to next weekend’s Regional at Sault Ste. Marie.
“It has kind of been our goal all year to go far in the playoffs,” Guild said. “Winning districts is the first step.”
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Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team knocked off another quality opponent Monday, sweeping a solid East Jordan team, 7-5 and 9-8.
The Cardinals (26-5) saw a comfortable lead get tight in the fifth inning when three unearned runs made it close. After a strong pitching performance by Gunnar Owens, Jake Newell came in the game to nail down the save.
Ski Valley baseball rivals split in Johannesburg
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston’s hopes of a Ski Valley Conference baseball championship were nearly put to bed Thursday afternoon when St. Mary defeated the Cardinals 5-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.
J-L prevented the sweep with a motivated 13-3 five-inning victory in the nightcap.
“I am happy to be coming out of here with a split because J-L is a great team,” said St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki. “In the first game, we had one error. We but the bat on the ball and had some great pitching.”
Cardinal’s coach Rick Guild also felt the Snowbirds played tough.
“St. Mary played us well in that first game,” he said. “They played good defense and robbed us of one or two hits to their credit. We were hitting the ball hard; we just couldn’t get the big hit, but that’s high school baseball for you. That first game they deserved to win.”
Brendon Nowicki pitched the Snowbirds to victory in game one, pushing his record to a perfect 5-0. In addition, Nowicki had two key singles to drive the offense.
Nick Harrington drove in the game’s first run in the second inning and knocked in two runs in the top of the sixth with a bases-loaded single to help put the game away.
Gunnar Owens took the loss for the Cardinals but only gave up seven hits.
Brian VanCoillie continued to knock the ball around for the Cardinals, coming up two hits in the loss.
In the nightcap, VanCoillie took the mound, and the J-L offense picked up the pace. With four runs in the first inning, St. Mary found itself in a hole that it could not dig out of.
“The second game we had five errors; we didn’t put the bat on the ball; we kicked the ball around a bit; and we got mercied,” Matt Nowicki said. “It’s kind of the story of our season. When we catch it, hit it and throw it, we’re in every game. We can play with anybody. When we don’t, you never know what you’re going to get.”
VanCoillie had three of J-L’s 14 total hits in the win, while Owens had four RBIs.
The split means that with league games dwindling, the Cardinals (24-5 overall, 13-3 Ski Valley) find themselves two full games behind Mancelona and will need help from others in order to catch up.
St. Mary is now 10-5 overall and 7-5 in the league.
The Snowbirds play in the Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart Invitational (today) Saturday while J-L hosts East Jordan Monday.
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Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team continues to get good pitching from its deep staff.
Senior Brett Kortman received the pitching victory in the AuGres win. Aside from a solid
On the other side of the bracket, Mio defeated Rudyard in a narrow 8-6 contest. Against the Thunderbolts senior Brian VanCoillie gave a spirited pitching performance. After giving up a solo home run in the first inning, VanCoillie cruised, allowing just four hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
The game was tied 1-1 until the bottom of the sixth when Gunnar Owens led off with a single and later advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Kortman who had another pair of hits wi ht a double in the second game, was intentionally walked. That brought up sophomore Coalton Huff, who laced a single to end the game.
With the District Tournament beginning in just two weeks, the Cardinals are 21-4 (12-2 Ski Valley) will face a big challenge when St. Mary visits on Thursday.
Gaylord Herald Times
PELLSTON — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team traveled to Pellston Thursday and crossed another Ski Valley team off its list with an 11-3 and 3-1 sweep.
The sweep was important for the Cardinals, who remain in the thick of the league race. J-L is now 19-4 overall and 12-2 in the league.
Gaylord Herald Times
MANCELONA — Under gray skies, the J-L baseball squad split with four-time defending Ski Valley champion Mancelona, taking the first in a marathon nine innings, 5-4, before dropping the second, 3-1.
The Cardinals (17-4, 10-2 Ski Valley) showed they could be put under pressure and still play their game. “That was as good of a high school game as it gets,” said J-L coach Rick Guild. “Both teams played outstanding baseball and should be proud.”
Unable to generate offense in the top half of the sixth and up 2-1 in the first game, J-L entered the bottom half of the inning needing three outs for the victory.
“We had them with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the sixth, and their kid hit it,” Guild said. “We threw him out, but it was called a foul ball. The next pitch our catcher lost it in foul territory, and the next pitch was a passed ball that scored the run.”
The seventh and eighth innings were defensive battles with neither team able to make any major threats. With the afternoon beginning to turn into evening, the top of the ninth proved to be a good one for the Cardinals. After a Brad Kussrow single and a Brett Kortman walk, Coalton Huff came up after having a strong day already on defense at shortstop.
After falling behind in the count, Huff laid down a bunt that dribbled back to Ironman pitcher Craig Conway. Although Huff was thrown out, the suicide squeeze worked and the Cardinals were able to start a scoring rally.
“Coalton had the suicide squeeze, and I had it called with two strikes,” Guild said. “If he would’ve tapped that foul, he would have been an out.”
Brian VanCoillie sent another two runs in with a single, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. In the bottom half of the ninth, starting pitcher Gunner Owens was eclipsing the 100-pitch count and then some.
The Ironmen were able to string together some production, and Owens found himself at the mound with nobody out and the bases load. “Yes, I thought about pulling him,” Guild said. “It had nothing to do with how he was throwing, it was more how many pitches he was throwing.”
Two errors in the field helped lead to two runs and with one out and a runner in scoring position, Owens decided to take matters into his own hands and struck out the final two batters of the game.
The second game was nearly cut short because of nightfall with J-L unable to come up with the run support to help out pitcher Jake Newell.
“Jake Newell pitched an outstanding game,” Guild said. “He only gave up three hits and had seven strikeouts. We just couldn’t put the runs up.”
The split sets up the beginning of a wild second half of conference play with J-L, Mancelona and St. Mary, and potentially others, gunning for the league title.
J-L plays at Pellston Thursday.
J-L raises $3,000 at Kapture Invitational
JOHANNESBURG — It is a highlight of the season for the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball program.
The Cardinals hosted the annual Val Kapture Memorial Invitational Saturday and through entrance fees and a special garage sale, the school raised nearly $3,000 for a scholarship fund in honor of Kapture, a popular former J-L baseball coach.
On the field, a J-L team with an overworked pitching staff split a pair of games. J-L lost the opener to Atlanta, 8-6. The young duo of Coalton Huff and Sean Paris pitched against the Huskies, with Alex Payne and Brad Kussrow each contributing a pair of hits.
The Cardinals rebounded to top Harbor Light Christian 14-3 in the consolation game. Paris, who was called up from junior varsity, earned the victory.
J-L also played Friday, sweeping Central Lake 5-2 and 8-7 in a Ski Valley Conference doubleheader. Gunner Owens picked up the opening game victory, striking out seven Trojans along the way.
Brian VanCoillie was on base three times and added an RBI hit, while Owens had a pair of hits and an RBI. Other run-scoring hits came from Payne and Blake Huff.
Jake Newell, pitching in relief, earned the game two comeback win. The Cardinals were down 7-1 early, but thanks to timely hitting and Newell’s steady pitching, they were able to catch up. Owens pitched the final inning to nail down the save.
Payne was 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, while VanCoillie had two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals. Coalton Huff added a pair of hits and an RBI.
A bad inning dooms J-L to baseball split
JOHANNESBURG — Hoping to continue on a five-game winning streak, the J-L baseball team welcomed Onaway for the battle of Cardinals Monday.Back to Top
On a gray day over Johannesburg, a split decision ensued with J-L taking game one, 13-6, while dropping the nightcap, 7-3. “We had one bad inning in the second game and that bad inning was our downfall,” said J-L coach Rick Guild. The nightcap may have ended on a sour note for the home team, but there was no shortage of musical bases in the first game. After trailing 5-1, the J-L offense began to heat up, posting six runs in the bottom of the second inning, all coming home with two outs.
In a game that was still much in doubt, it was the pitching of Gunnar Owens that helped to propel J-L to the victory. “Gunnar came in relief for Brian VanCoillie in the third, and he struck out five of the seven batters he faced and shut them down completely,” Guild said. Owens’ 2 1/3 innings were enough to earn himself another victory. Brett Kortman stepped in as closer for the final three outs, and the J-L bats did the rest.
Owens contributed two RBIs to the offensive cause, going 2-for-4. Nick Michael had a solid game, batting 1-for-2 with an RBI. As the gray day took the nightcap to near darkness, J-L found itself in a similar situation as in the first game but was unable to find the two-out RBIs. A six-run Onaway second inning spelled doom for J-L.
“Jake Newell pitched well with the exception of that inning. He had two walks and seven strikeouts,” Guild said. Five of the six runs would be of the unearned variety.
In the fourth, big man Blake Huff tried to spark another comeback by drilling a hanging curve over the fence in left field. “Blake played well in both of those games,” said Guild. The senior went 4-for-6 with four RBIs and a home run on the day. VanCoillie had a strong second game, hitting 2-for-4.
The loss may end J-L’s winning streak, but the Cardinals are still 13-2 overall and 7-1 in the Ski Valley Conference. The Cardinals return home Thursday against Central Lake.
J-L baseball slides past Forest Area
FIFE LAKE — On a gusty spring afternoon, the Cardinals' baseball squad swept Forest Area, 15-3 and 14-3.
Brian VanCoillie did damage in both games, going a combined 5-for-7 with four RBIs.
Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team fought off a tough Bellaire squad to get a sweep in the opening doubleheader of the Ski Valley Conference season.
J-L baseball splits Mio doubleheader
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team split a double header at home against Mio Tuesday night, dropping the first game 12-8 and winning the night cap, 7-3.
In the afternoon game, the Cardinals came out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning when the tables flipped and publicly for the first time all season, head coach Rick Guild was unhappy with the defense of his team.
The Thunderbolt offense continued to roll, posting seven more in the top of the fifth to take the game 12-8.
J-L had solid offensive production from Gunnar Owens, who hit 2-3 with two RBIs along with Alex Payne who also hit 2-3 with two RBIs.
The defense got itself together for game two and rallied around starting pitcher Brett Kortman.
The senior pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up four hits, three runs with only one of those earned. Seeing the plate well, Kortman struck out seven and did not walk a runner.
Owens entered the game in the top of the fifth as the reliever and was able to get the team out of a tight spot.
“In the fifth we were leading 6-3 but Mio had the bases loaded with one out,” said Guild. “Gunnar came in and struck out two to end the inning then retired them in order in the sixth to get the save.”
Kortman had a good game on the mound and at the plate, going 2-3 with two RBIs.
Brian VanCoillie had a solid doubleheader, reaching base on 7-8 appearances.
The Cardinals will host Bellaire on Thursday to open up Ski Valley Conference play with a record of 6-1.
J-L baseball puts up the offense in Boyne Falls sweep
Gaylord Herald Times
BOYNE FALLS — The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team easily improved to 5-0 on the season with a 17-0 and 12-0 sweep of Boyne Falls Friday.
Junior Cole Nagy was the standout in the pitching and hitting departments of the opener. Nagy struck out six in the opener and added a pair of hits and RBIs. Sophomore Coalton Huff snagged his first career varsity win in the nightcap, striking out seven along the way. Senior Brian VanCoillie went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the second game. The Cardinals will begin Ski Valley Conference play at home Thursday against Bellaire.
HILLMAN - The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team has survived three
Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG — In 1975, Rick Guild transferred the short distance from Central Lake to Johannesburg-Lewiston to coach baseball.
A shade under averaging 20 wins for the next 36 years, Guild forever stamped himself in J-L record books by winning his 700th game Tuesday night against the reigning Regional champions from Rogers City.
“What sticks out in my mind is more important than the wins, what sports do for the kids,” he said. “There are a lot of statistics that show that kids who are involved in extracurricular activities, whether it’s sports, music, art or whatever, do better academically.
“Seeing kids be successful as they go on in life is more important than the victories. It’s more fun to win than lose, but you have to know how to lose too.”
Since 1975 there have been seven presidents but not many changes to the sport of baseball, according to Guild.
“I don’t think it has changed a lot,” Guild said. “I see there starting to be a more progressive attitude in Northern Michigan. By progressive, I mean that kids are able to do more like winter hitting leagues and summer AAU ball.
“This gives them the opportunity to compete with kids from Florida — our kids can now play longer.”
As many people hone their crafts and become seasoned veterans of their trade, it is especially easier for those who have contact with youth to grow a little cynical. Several studies have been attempted on the effects of television on the past couple of generations.
Guild is not hearing any of that talk. “I think that is all a bunch of (bs),” said Guild. “I am extremely proud of how our kids conduct themselves. Sometimes situations happen and kids make mistakes, but our kids have always been respectful.
“People want to say that these kids are on the Internet or playing video games all of the time, I don’t buy that. I’m fortunate to have worked with these kids.”
Guild is optimistic in future generations with good reason. Guild’s Cardinals are undefeated on the year, adding a Hillman sweep to the short season on Thursday, but the head coach is also confident beyond this season for his group.
“I have six seniors this year that will graduate and move on to college next year, and I’m sure that they will be successful in whatever they chose to do,” he said.
Baseball 2012: J-L eyeing long tourney run
JOHANNESBURG — Not many baseball teams in Northern Michigan sat where Johannesburg-Lewiston did in late June 2011.
The team fell just shy in the District championship game, losing to a scrappy underdog in St. Mary. The Cardinals finished the season with more than 20 wins and six All-Ski Valley Conference players to go along with two All-State honorable mentions.
Four players made the Herald Times All-Area team, including two-time player of the year, John Cook. With awards in hand, many coaches would have seen the season as one of those, we-gave-it-a-good-try type of years. Many coaches would have been thrilled about the outcome.
“Last season was probably one of the most disappointing years I’ve had in a long time,” said Rick Guild, longtime J-L coach. “Even though we won 21 games last year, we still didn’t have the kind of year I thought we would. We made a nice little run in the District tournament, but it was not enough.”
A little more than nine months later the Cardinals returned to the diamond with a very business-like team picture that may reflect the desire to take things a little further this season.
Cook may be absent from the photo, devoid of smiles, but many of the core starters have been in the picture before. “I have six seniors this season and five of those coming back as four-year starters,” Guild said. “Most of them worked hard in the off-season and are hungry for this year.”
Pitching will be a bright spot for the squad with ace Brian VanCoillie returning for his senior campaign. The left-handed hurler not only left hitters in his wake but opposing pitchers as well, hitting better than .500 with 37 RBIs a year ago.
Fellow senior Gunnar Owens, one of the area’s top catchers, will take the mound on VanCoillie’s off days. Brett Kortman, Brad Newell, Nick Michael and power hitter Blake Huff are all back for one more season before graduation.
With so many upperclassmen in the lineup, Guild has the luxury of rotating in the younger players to offer a spark of energy.
“Brad Kussrow hit over .400 for us as freshman last year,” Guild said. “He will be in to catch when Gunnar is pitching. We will probably play some young kids off the junior varsity just to give them some time. Dylan Helms will play some second base and Garrett Koronka will be used as DH.”
Alex Payne and Cole Nagy return as juniors starters to the team.
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