JLAS Softball 2016

Player of the Year: Cardinals' Bennett puts in work to one-up her father

Overcoming inexperience: Cardinals hope to groom young talent like past seasons

2016 Girls Varsity Softball Schedule

Apr 18, 2016
4:00 PM
Game #1 - L 23-12
Game #2 - L 16-10
Apr 22, 2016
4:00 PM
Game #1 - L 18-10
Game #2 - L 14-4
Apr 27, 2016
4:00 PM
@ Lincoln Alcona High School

Game #1 -6-0
Game #2 - L 11-10
Apr 28, 2016
4:00 PM
Game #1 - L 17-0
Game #2 - L 16-1
May 02, 2016
4:30 PM
Game #1 - L 3-2
Game #2 - L 14-7
May 05, 2016
4:30 PM
Game #1 - L 13-2
Game #2 - L 12-2
May 07, 2016
9:00 AM

11th Annual
Val Kapture Memorial Baseball Tournament
Cardinals earn 1st win, place 2nd in Val Kapture tournament

Game #1 - W 12-7
Game #2 - L 9-6
May 10, 2016
4:00 PM
Game #1 - W 9-8
Game #2 - L 12-2
May 12, 2016
4:30 PM
Game #1 - LOST
Game #2 - W 17-7
May 16, 2016
4:30 PM


Game #1 - W 26-16
Game #2 - W 12-7
May 19, 2016
4:30 PM
@ Inland Lakes High School
Game #1 - L 11-1
Game #2 - L 11-1
May 20, 2016
4:30 PM
Game #1 - L 11-10
Game #2 - L 10-7
May 23, 2016
4:30 PM
Game #1 - L 14-2
Game #2 - L 15-0
May 27, 2016
4:30 PM
Johannesburg-Lewiston Schools, Baseball Field
May 31,2016
4:00 PM
4:00 p.m. Softball Pre-District
@ Hillman vs. Posen
J-L vs. Posen L 6-5

Back to Top

Player of the Year: Cardinals' Bennett puts in work to one-up her father
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Paul Bennett used to tease his daughter, Bailey, about how hard she'd have to work to become the type of successful player he was on the baseball diamond.

The key phrase there is "used to."

Bennett, a 1986 Hillman graduate, was a natural athlete, relying on raw skill over fundamentals to have success in not only baseball, which he wound up playing in college, but on the basketball court as well, as he graduated as a 1,000-point scorer for the Tigers.

Simply put, he was good, and he didn't have to work as hard as others in practice to be that good either. It was almost unfair, especially to Bailey, who put in countless hours in the offseason to become one of the top hitters in Otsego County this past softball season.

She put in so much effort, in fact, the Herald Times has selected her as its Player of the Year — so take that, dad!

"He pushes me to be the best I can be," Bailey said. "He likes to make fun of me and say I'm never as good as him, but he never had this (won a Player of the Year honor), so I guess win."

This past season, Bailey, a junior, led the Cardinals (5-24) with a .443 batting average and .671 slugging average. She also blasted two home runs, one against Lincoln Alcona and another against Manton, which were the first two dinger's of her career.

She owed some of that success to who helped her improve her batting form: former Central Michigan University baseball player and area instructor Greg Jones, a schoolmate of Paul's during the 1980s at Hillman.

"Greg used to make fun of him because dad didn't use a technique," Bailey said. "He'd grip and rip the ball and get home runs.

"He had natural athletic talent. He just never had to work on talent. For me to be that good, I always had to work on that talent, so I guess it's just different for me than my dad."

Leading up to the season, Bailey worked with Jones weekly to perfect her form, technique and ensure she'd have the best swing.

It paid off.

But working with Jones also helped her tweak her mental approach.

"I've worked the hardest on my mental game," she said. "I have a hard time concentrating on things. For me to get things done, I have to buckle down and put my mind to it.

"For example, before I hit my first home run, the reason it had taken so long was I was trying too hard and over thinking it. I was thinking too much about hitting the ball.

"I'd get close to the fence, but it'd never happen. So finally I was like, 'whatever, I'm just going to go up and hit the ball,' and that's what happened."

Her newfound approach was a home run — literally.

Going forward, Bailey wants to continue her improvement. That includes becoming a dependable outfielder, being a better teammate and, of course, getting better at hitting the ball.

More importantly, though, she hopes she can help turn the Cardinals around from a five-win team to something much more special. Not even something like Paul's natural ability for the game could turn a program around, so that's why Bailey works. And she'll continue working because that's what drives her to be the best — not just in Otsego County.

"I think I'm going to work more on overall fundamentals of the game and make sure technique is pretty close to perfect or as close as it can be," Bennett said. "I'm going to work hard and hope the team follows suit, and we can get crap done."

2016 Herald Times All-Area Team:

Bailey Bennett, J-L

Anika Kierczynski, J-L

Grace Boden, J-L

Averi Bebble, St. Mary

Gabby Schultz, St. Mary

Anna Torsky, St. Mary

Kate Andrews, St. Mary

Cory Starks, Gaylord

Ally Goff, Gaylord

Back to Top

Offseason instruction inspires Bennett to blast homer in Cardinals' season finale
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — It worked for former Johannesburg-Lewiston standouts such as Gunnar Owens and Brian VanCoillie.

It has even worked for current J-L senior Logan Huff as well as St. Mary's Nick Torsky and Gaylord's Levi Irish, who are each on baseball teams with 22 wins or more this spring.

So it's not surprising to see Bailey Bennett have similar success, too.

The Johannesburg-Lewiston junior belted a home run, her second of the season, assisting the Cardinals (5-23) in their 13-3 and 19-3 losses to visiting Manton in non conference softball action Friday.

What do all those players mentioned above have in common?

They each worked on their games with former Central Michigan University player Greg Jones, who has been helping local talent reach their potential in baseball and softball for the past half decade.

Jones, a Hillman native, has perfected Bennett's batting stance and technique while at the plate — working with her almost every Sunday this past winter and Thursdays leading up to the season's start.

Clearly his instruction has paid off.

"He taught me to keep my technique real nice," Bennett said. "He just made sure I'd make connection and make sure I'd just hit the ball."

Bennett is batting a career-best .356 and her on-base and slugging percentages are over .400.

The junior had never hit an over-the-fence home run until this year.

"Now I just go up there and make connection," she said.

"That's all I really do."

In Game 1, Bennett blasted a two-run home run over the left field fence, about 230 feet, to trim J-L's deficit to 10-3 in the fifth inning.

"We all know she has it it in her," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "There are four or five girls who have the potential to hit it out of the park with home-run hits. She's doing good for us, and I can't complain about it."

Chelsea Ramage, who turned a double play at third base, drove in J-L's only other run with a double in the third inning. It scored Torrie Crandell.

Madyson Hague led the Cardinals with two hits while Hague and Ramage each finished with one stolen base.

Pitcher Anika Kierczynski started and struck out two Rangers.

In the second game, the Cardinals scored all three of their runs in the first frame before Manton secured the three-inning surrender rule win.

That inning saw Hague lay down a one-run single to score Ramage, and Bennett bring home Kate Heidman with a base hit.

Hague scored the final run on a Kierczynski single.

Kierczynski and Heidman each finished with two hits, and Ramage also recorded a double.

The game marked the final home appearances for seniors Faith Bartle and Heidman, who also turned a double play with Jordyn Stark in the third inning.

"I think it's bittersweet (the seniors played their last home game)," House said. "Kate's been having small milestones with it being her senior year — like her throwing from short to first base. She wasn't able to do that at the beginning of the season. Now she's able to fire it there and do pretty good for us, and she can hit the ball."

The Cardinals face Posen in the Division 4 pre-district Tuesday, May 31 at Hillman with a trip to the Saturday, June 4 semifinal on the line.

House said she'll also miss Bartle, who will be a key postseason player.

"Faith has been with me for years now," House said. "It's been bittersweet for her (this week), but I don't think they're thinking about tonight as their last game because they're ready to come out and play well in districts next week."

Back to Top

Errors cost Kierczynski-led Cardinals at Mancelona
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

MANCELONA — The pitching was there.

Johannesburg-Lewiston just couldn't limit its errors defensively.

Anika Kierczynski pitched well, but the Cardinals lost to host Mancelona 14-2 and 15-0 (both in five innings) during a Ski Valley softball doubleheader Monday.

"We didn't play good," J-L coach Ashlie House said.

"We had a lot of errors and couldn't seem to get the glove on the ball."

In the first game, Kierczynski led the Cardinals (5-21, 3-13 Ski Valley) both while pitching and batting.

The junior struck out two Ironmen and walked only one while finishing with one hit, one RBI and one run scored offensively.

"She worked her heart out," House said. "She did good every time she got up to bat tonight."

Also playing well were Madyson Hague, Grace Boden and Devyn McVannel, who each finished with one hit.

Boden paced the Cardinals with one hit in Game 2.

"I mainly played my young ones and all my freshmen in the second game," House said. "We had a lot of young ones in, and we tried to get them experience with their at-bats. They didn't do too bad and tried to get their bat on the ball."

The Cardinals conclude the regular season when they host Manton for a non conference doubleheader Friday, May 27.

J-L starts postseason play when it faces Posen in the Division 4 pre-district Tuesday, May 31 at Hillman. The winner advances to play in the semifinal Saturday, June 4.

Back to Top

Attitudes adjusted: Cardinals play 'awesome' against Red Devils
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Ashlie House admitted she was ready to quit on her softball team a few weeks ago.

That's because some of the Cardinals, for a short stretch, had quit on the third-year coach and stopped taking practices and games seriously.

But those Cardinals haven't reared their heads in awhile.

House's new breed of players, which narrowly lost to visiting East Jordan 11-10 and 10-7 in non conference play Friday, are all business.

"They have great attitudes," House said. "They didn't let the losses go to their head. I'm so proud of them as individuals and their upbeat personalities.

"They want to win. They got together to see how we can make that happen, and they've come together as a team so we don't look bad."

In the first game, J-L (5-19, 3-10 Ski Valley) rallied back from a 10-4 deficit in the final inning to force an extra frame.

That six-run sixth inning saw Faith Bartle blast a two-run double, and then with the bases loaded, Whitney Fox took a hit pitch to drive in the tying run.

"That was awesome," House said.

The Red Devils earned the winning score in the seventh after pushing in their free runner from second base (international tie-breaker rule).

"They fought back," House said. "That has a lot to say about us as coaches and them as players.

"It's frustrating losing, but I don't mind losing when they play to their potential. They're finally playing to how they should play."

Anika Kierczynski, who struck out seven batters and allowed no walks while pitching, led J-L's offense. The junior recorded three hits, drove in two runs and scored two runs.

Also for J-L, Bailey Bennett had two hits, three RBIs, two runs and doubled once. Bartle finished with four RBIs, one double and a triple.

Chelsea Ramage hit an over-the-fence home run, but the Cardinals' rally stopped short in their Game 2 loss.

Trailing by three runs in the final inning, J-L had two runners in scoring position but couldn't drive them home.

Ramage, Bennett (three RBIs) and Grace Boden each finished with two hits while Destiny Pryor (one RBI) and Madyson Hague had one apiece.

Helping the Cardinals move base runners was Kate Heidman.

"Kate Heidman did great with her bunts that pushed my girls around all night," House said.

League-leading Bulldogs power past Cardinals

INDIAN RIVER — Inland Lakes is four wins away from capturing an outright Ski Valley title for a reason.

The Cardinals found that out Thursday.

Inland Lakes swept the visiting Cardinals 11-1 and 11-1 in a league doubleheader.

"We lost, but Inland Lakes is a phenomenal team, and their pitcher is great," House said.

Torrie Crandell scored J-L's lone run in the first game, as hits by Ramage and Boden helped put Crandell in scoring position and drive her home.

In Game 2, Kierczynski doubled to get on base, and then Crandell drove her in with a hit to score the Cardinals' only run.

"All things considered, the girls played phenomenally," House said. "Against a faster pitcher, they went up there with confidence and were making hits."

Back to Top

Boden's 2 homers push Cardinals past rival Snowbirds
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — No softball team has had a split-personality quite like Johannesburg-Lewiston this spring.

The Cardinals (5-15, 3-8 Ski Valley) have followed up big wins with blowout losses in the same doubleheader. They've also followed up blowout losses with big wins.

They finally put it all together Monday, this time sweeping rival St. Mary 26-16 and 12-7 in a Ski Valley doubleheader at home.

It was J-L's first sweep of an opponent since May 12, 2015.

"Usually, it's win the first game and lose the second, or it's lose the first game and win the second," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "But today I told them to totally forget about what had just happened in the first game and go out focused and buckled down.

"That's what they did in the second game."

Grace Boden smashed two inside-the-park home runs, and seven of J-L's first eight batters scored runs to help the Cardinals put away St. Mary in Game 1.

J-L's Chelsea Ramage and Faith Bartle (10 stolen bases) each drove in five runs while Boden and Whitney Fox had three RBIs apiece.

"They just went out there playing ball," House said. "They weren't worried about who was winning.

"They knew what they had to do, and that's what they were focused on."

Gabby Schultz blasted a two-run home run to lead the Snowbirds (5-13 and 1-10 Ski Valley), and Anna Torsky scored four runs.

"A huge positive is Gabby Schultz started seeing the ball today," St. Mary assistant John Sullivan said.

"I thought the whole team saw the ball and were hitting the ball today. We put up some runs. A positive was our offense."

The Cardinals used a four-run fourth inning to snap a 4-4 tie and jump ahead of the Snowbirds in the second game.

That inning saw Ramage and Anika Kierczynski lay down one-run singles while Madyson Hague and Bailey Bennett drove in one score apiece with sacrifice hits.

Boden and Bennett each led the way with three RBIs.

"They kept their heads and weren't looking at the score," House said. "They were ready and focused.

"They all hit. They all got up there and hit."

A two-run double by Bekah Myler, a pair of RBI doubles by Schultz and three runs scored by Olivea Jeffers highlighted St. Mary's offensive effort.

"I give Joburg credit because they put the bat on the ball," Sullivan said. "They had a lot of timely hits.

"We'd move our defense in, and they'd put it over our heads. We'd move them out, and they'd drop the ball in front of us."

Back to Top

Kierczynski finds rhythm pitching while Cardinals beat Warriors
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

FIFE LAKE — Never underestimate the relationship between a softball pitcher and her catcher.

After Johannesburg-Lewiston had lost to Forest Area 14-6 in Game 1 of its league doubleheader Thursday, the Cardinals (3-15, 1-8 Ski Valley) rebounded to beat the host Warriors 17-7 in the second matchup.

Anika Kierczynski's pitching guided the Cardinals in Game 2.

"Anika pitched her best game so far this season," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "She pitched the hardest she's pitched. She did good and came out big for us in that second game."

Kierczynski struck out seven Warriors and allowed no walks.

House believed Kierczynski's budding relationship with freshman catcher Grace Boden helped the junior improve her pitching.

"We just moved Grace Boden to catcher," House said. "Nothing against Chelsea Ramage. She's a good catcher, too.

"But Anika is comfortable with Grace and is throwing harder knowing Grace will stop anything (wild pitches). If there's a mistake, Grace can throw down runners. Having a catcher she can trust helps her ability and strength as a pitcher."

Boden performed well, too, finishing with three putouts.

Madyson Hague led the Cardinals' offense by driving in five runs while Bailey Bennett, Faith Bartle and Kierczynski each had three RBIs.

J-L scored five runs in the first inning to quickly distance itself from the Warriors.

In the first game, Kierczynski struck out one batter and walked four.

Bennett, Hague, Ramage, Kate Heidman and Torrie Crandell each scored runs for the Cardinals.

"(The team's morale) is good," House said. "They're trying to stay humble and know we have stuff to work on.

"We're meeting our little goals. I'm not giving them too much at one time, and they're doing well meeting those goals."

Back to Top

Cardinals earn 1st win, place 2nd in Val Kapture tournament
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston entered Saturday's annual Val Kapture softball tournament winless and on a 12-game losing streak.

To make the most of the tournament, the Cardinals set small, obtainable goals in hopes of improving their play and getting their first win.

Mission accomplished.

The Cardinals (1-13, 0-8 Ski Valley) defeated Lincoln Alcona 12-7 in the first round of play and advanced to face Mancelona in the championship.

The Ironmen edged the Cardinals 9-6 to earn the tournament crown, but there was no taking away J-L's first win of the season.

"That was huge," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "You could just tell they were happy and excited we met our little goals.

"We made it a priority to hit them, too. One goal was to get through our whole batting lineup (in one inning) and another was to have our outfielders catch all the balls hit in the air that were catchable."

The Cardinals were unfazed by the Tigers, who swept them 6-0 and 11-10 during a non conference doubleheader April 27.

"They didn't have the pressure of losing," House said. "They knew it wasn't a (conference) game we needed to win. They went in relaxed and had a lot of fun.

"We focused individually altogether and pieced it together."

J-L achieved its first goal of getting through the lineup in one inning during the first frame of its win over Alcona.

The Cardinals scored five runs in that inning, highlighted by a two-run single by Bailey Bennett and another two-run hit by Torrie Crandell.

J-L led Alcona 8-0 entering the fourth inning, and then the Tigers tacked on two runs before attempting a rally one inning later.

Alcona scored five runs in the fifth inning.

J-L's outfield stepped up to snag a few fly balls, ultimately achieving the second goal the Cardinals had set for themselves, to halt Alcona's comeback attempt.

"My outfield, Whitney Fox, Bailey Bennett and Madyson Hague, did really good in the first game and were a big reason we won the first game," House said. "They were catching the ball out there."

The Cardinals also benefited from Anika Kierczynski, who pitched a complete game and struck out six Tigers.

"Anika, she was starting to get tired at the end," House said. "Her balls were starting to hit the ground, but we've been tough on her.

"She's our only pitcher, and we pitch her in every game. Her arm got tired, but she pushed through it for us."

In the championship, J-L's errors allowed Mancelona to score all nine of its runs in the first two innings.

The Cardinals tried a comeback and even scored five runs in the fourth inning to trim their deficit to 9-5.

That inning saw Destiny Pryor and Crandell each push in runs with base hits while Pryor added another single in the final inning that scored Bennett.

However, the Cardinals couldn't manufacture enough offense to knot the score and force an eighth inning.

Kate Heidman, Grace Boden, Bennett, Hague and Kierczynski each had hits during the championship.

Back to Top

Bailey Bennett blasts Cardinals past Vikings with homer, winning run
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — No one was stopping Bailey Bennett on Tuesday.

The junior had a home run and scored the winning run, helping Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-14, 0-8 Ski Valley) beat visiting Alanson 9-8 in the first game of a non conference softball doubleheader.

The Vikings beat the Cardinals 12-2 in the second matchup, but Bennett still made her presence felt during the surrender rule loss.

"We all knew she had it in her," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "She was just feeling it today. The confidence was there.

"She made sure her form was correct and was solid all around. Nothing was going to get by her. Every time she was up to bat, she made contact and poked it around the infield. She did a great job hitting."

In the first game, the score was knotted 8-8 in the seventh inning, and then Chelsea Ramage hit a line drive toward the pitcher.

The Vikings corralled the ball, but they didn't check Bennett, who raced home from third base to record the winning run.

Bennett finished with four hits, including a double and an over-the-fence home run, while J-L played well defensively.

"My outfield did good," House said. "Destiny Pryor came up huge playing shortstop with five put-outs and three assists."

J-L pitcher Anika Kierczynski struck out six Vikings in Game 2, but the Cardinals looked too lackadaisical to keep up with Alanson.

"They didn't come out to play," House said. "They looked like they had never played a game before in their lives."

Bennett drove in both of J-L's runs, singling to score Madyson Hague and Kate Heidman in separate innings.

Back to Top

Fox impresses during Cardinals' losses to Trojans
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Ashlie House has resorted to moving players out of their natural positions to find a spark.

The losses have piled up, and the third-year softball coach hasn't been afraid to sit a veteran player for a freshman to try and stop the bleeding.

One freshman, Whitney Fox, has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Fox, who started in right field, snagged two fly balls and was a highlight for the Cardinals (1-13, 0-8 Ski Valley) during their 13-2 and 12-2 losses to visiting Central Lake in conference softball action Thursday.

In past games, J-L's outfielders have shied away from balls in the air, were late to balls they should have easily caught or have even dropped routine catches that lead to surefire outs.

But not Fox.

The freshman was aggressive while fielding fly balls and is learning how to hit her cut-off man to make plays near the bases.

"Whitney did pretty good," House said. "She snagged two foul balls and on one of her at-bats, it was foul, but she cracked the ball. Had she straightened it out, it probably would have been over the fence."

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Fox's rookie success wasn't enough to slow down the Trojans, especially in the first game.

Central Lake scored four runs in the third and sixth innings, respectively, to distance itself from the Cardinals.

J-L scored both its runs in the third inning.

The first score came from Kate Heidman. The senior singled to drive in Jordyn Stark, who got on base with a walk earlier in the frame.

Shortly afterward, Madyson Hague singled to score Faith Bartle, who also got on base with a walk.

J-L's lack of offense was disheartening to House.

"We do batting practice every single time," she said. "We really focus on hitting and different speeds on the pitching machine.

"(Central Lake's pitching) was nothing they can't handle. I don't know what's getting into their head or why they couldn't hit."

J-L pitcher Anika Kierczynski started and struck out four Trojans.

In the second game, the Trojans scored three runs in the first, second and fourth innings, respectively, to complete the sweep.

The Cardinals received both their runs in the second inning.

Bailey Bennett, who got on base with a double, scored on an error.

Torrie Crandell then singled to right field to score Kierczynski.

"We had the bases loaded twice in this game," House said. "That's a big opportunity to get people pushed around, and we didn't come through."

Kierczynski finished with two strikeouts while pitching.

Also playing well was freshman Grace Boden, who started at catcher.

"Grace was catching, and she did good catching," House said. "She has a good arm and is an all-around natural athlete.

"It was nice to see my freshmen and people who haven't gotten in to get plays."

The Cardinals have seven underclassmen on this year's squad.

Back to Top

Cardinals drop 2 close calls to Hornets
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

PELLSTON — Closing out games.

That's one thing the young and rebuilding Johannesburg-Lewiston softball team has struggled to do this season.

Not doing so hurt the Cardinals (0-10, 0-6 Ski Valley) twice Monday.

Grace Boden and Kate Heidman played well, but Pellston edged visiting J-L 3-2 and 14-7 in a Ski Valley doubleheader.

In Game 1, Heidman's single that scored Boden in the sixth inning knotted the score 2-2, but J-L couldn't hold on to force extra innings.

The Hornets instead put two runners on base in the final frame and later drove in the winning run with a walk-off single.

The game-winner erased J-L's comeback attempt which saw Bailey Bennett, who finished with two hits, smash a double that scored Heidman in the fifth inning and trimmed the Cardinals' deficit to 2-1.

"It's frustrating," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "It's frustrating with my returners because they're the ones who should be getting a hold of the ball (to get on base and score runs).

"No one struck out, but it's frustrating they're not using their power or placing (the ball in play). I'm just waiting for everyone to come together at the same time instead of us piecing together runs."

J-L pitcher Anika Kierczynski struck out one batter and walked another.

The Cardinals had led Pellston 6-2 in the second game before they allowed the Hornets to storm back and earn the win.

A four-run second inning gave J-L its lead which included Madyson Hague's inside-the-park home run that scored Faith Bartle and Heidman.

Later in the second, Torrie Crandell's hit allowed Kierczynski to score.

And then the Cardinals fell apart.

They struggled offensively starting in the third inning which followed them on defense as errors started compounding.

Pellston scored five runs in the third to ensure the win.

"It's just that one inning of errors we always have," House said.

"It's like they got down and lost their head. They weren't hitting the ball. That obviously killed us."

Kierczynski pitched the second game as well, striking out one Hornet and walking two.

House said dropping those two matchups were a wake-up call.

"This was by far two wins we should have had easy under our belt," she said. "They had a slower pitcher, and we were doing better and hitting the ball.

"We're getting tired of the losing. We need to stay patient and get everything together, so they can know what winning feels like."

Back to Top

Heidman's improvement shows in J-L's losses to Onaway
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Once a sprinter for the track and field team, Kate Heidman switched to softball so she could slide past her opponents.

Onaway, which swept host Johannesburg-Lewiston 17-0 and 16-1 in a Ski Valley doubleheader, kept Heidman from sliding Thursday.

But that one outing can't overshadow the improvements she has made since joining the Cardinals (0-8, 0-4 Ski Valley) as a junior last season.

"I'm not really surprised she's doing well because she has put in a lot of time over the summer," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "What I've tried to teach to her, mechanic wise, she's buckled down.

"When we met up again (in the spring), I told her right away that she'd probably start for me because I just saw improvement. She couldn't hit the ball or catch the ball before. Now she's starting to catch the ball, and she's just one of our all-around smart players."

Onaway limited Heidman's contributions all night Thursday.

"I had a really good game last game (Wednesday at Lincoln Alcona)," she said. "I hit some balls, got some outs and had like three double plays.

"But this game, not so much. It's just kind of on and off, and I'm just trying to learn the sport better."

Madyson Hague had J-L's lone hit in the first game, and Onaway used a 10-run third inning to jump out to an early 14-0 lead.

But Heidman and her teammates, who are mostly underclassmen, made nine defensive stops and showed improvement.

In the second game, J-L freshman Grace Boden got on base with a single and after two stolen bases, found herself on third. After an Onaway passed ball, she raced home to score her team's lone run.

J-L's defense looked even better in that matchup, this time holding Onaway to only two runs until the top of the third inning.

Heidman, who joins Faith Bartle as J-L's only two seniors, had a couple of defensive plays from second base.

She also helped with her positive attitude.

"I like her positive attitude, and they're all fun girls," House said. "She's definitely always got a smile on her face.

"She doesn't get her head down and always has that 'OK, coach' kind of attitude. She just needs to keep that up, and she'll do good.

"She's just focused and works on her confidence. She's building her confidence and knows her limitations in what she can do so she's not trying to overplay. That's really been key."

Heidman, on the other hand, likes showing off her sprinter speed.

That's something J-L hopes she can use when it visits Pellston for a Ski Valley game Monday, May 2 and hosts Central Lake for a league game as well Thursday, May 5.

"I like running the bases and stealing," Heidman said. "I like to show people how fast I am. You don't get to slide in track, and that's fun."

Wake-up call inspires Cardinals in close losses to Tigers

HARRISVILLE — Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Ashlie House was fed up with her softball team's attitude and canceled practice Tuesday.

The Cardinals weren't taking their time seriously and lacked effort when House had missed an earlier practice for a personal reason.

Before canceling practice, the third-year coach gave the Cardinals an ultimatum: put up or shut up.

J-L chose the former and put forth its best effort this season Wednesday, falling just short to host Lincoln Alcona 6-0 and 11-10 in a non conference doubleheader that dropped the Cardinals to 0-6.

"They were being lazy in practice and not caring," House said. "They were there for the social aspect. I called every single one of them out and got passed the drama.

"I told them it's either practice (better), or we're not going to play. I told them that I love this sport, but they were making me hate it. After that talk, they were like a whole new ball club tonight. It was great fun."

It was fun because of how improved the Cardinals played.

In the first game, they couldn't get runs to cross home plate, but their defense couldn't have looked any better.

"They (Alcona) had a really good pitcher we were facing," House said. "We had a difficulty with our at-bats and had 10 strikeouts, but our defensive play was just fantastic."

Headlining that defense was Heidman, who finished Game 1 with four assists, three put-outs and three double plays.

"This is really her first year playing, and I've seen a huge improvement from her," House said.

"Our defense got their act together, and it was three up and three down for us most of the night."

It was Boden who shined for the Cardinals in Game 2.

With J-L trailing 9-7 in the top of the sixth inning, Boden blasted a two-run triple that gave the Cardinals a 10-9 advantage.

However, the Tigers responded in the bottom of the frame with a walk-off single that scored two runs, helping them steal the win.

Also contributing for the Cardinals in Game 2 were Hague, Bailey Bennett and Chelsea Ramage, who each got on base.

"Madyson Hague didn't play much for us last year either, and she was just hitting tonight," House said.

"We had huge improvements as a team, and I give them props. They took nothing (in practice) and turned it into something."

Back to Top

Heidman's effort not enough for Cardinals in loss to Rayders
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Too many errors can be costly against a more experienced program such as the Charlevoix softball team.

Johannesburg-Lewiston learned that firsthand Friday.

Kate Heidman had four hits and two put-outs, but the Cardinals fell to the visiting Rayders 18-10 and 14-3 in a non conference doubleheader.

In the first game, Charlevoix scored nine runs on J-L errors, despite the Cardinals (0-4, 0-2 Ski Valley) mustering base runners in each inning.

Madyson Hague led J-L with three hits, including a triple, while Faith Bartle had three hits and Heidman finished with two.

"We had steady runs every inning," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "(Charlevoix's pitcher) was a fast pitcher, but the girls didn't do too bad getting the bat on the ball."

The Cardinals grabbed a 3-1 advantage in the first inning of Game 2, but they couldn't create much offense during the ensuing frames.

"They (Charlevoix) scored in the next three innings, and we didn't score at all," House said. "We either struck out or hit it to someone."

Charlevoix put the game out of reach by scoring seven runs in the fifth inning which included a three-run home run.

Bailey Bennett and Heidman paced J-L's offense with two hits apiece.

Heidman, a second-year player as a senior, impressed House.

"For not playing at all before, she did really good," the coach said.

Back to Top

Young Cardinals show fight in doubleheader letdown to Eagles
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — For what Johannesburg-Lewiston lacks in experience, it makes up for it with its willingness to keep fighting.

No one exemplified that quite like Grace Boden did Monday. The freshman finished with three RBIs and one hit, helping the Cardinals avoid a pair of blowout losses to Bellaire in the softball season opener.

The Eagles ultimately defeated J-L 23-12 and 16-10 in a Ski Valley doubleheader, but one thing was evident after the games: the Cardinals' youth won't be easily pushed around.

"I'm excited after seeing them battle back," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "I know they're young, but I'm excited for the years to come, and we're going to start building (a strong program)."

An excellent future centerpiece for the program should be Boden, who was a vacuum at shortstop and fearless while batting.

"Grace Boden, our freshman, did a phenomenal job at the plate and playing shortstop," House said. "At first, she was coming (to practice) with a lack of confidence. I had to nip that in the bud right away and say, 'knock this off. You're a freshman, so get that out of your head because you're on varsity, and we don't have a JV team.'

"What I like is she has really buckled down and has been getting good at (having confidence). For her, she came out here today with confidence, and she has a heck of an arm for a freshman. I'm excited to see her potential, and she is quick as heck."

A rough first inning, where J-L allowed Bellaire to score 11 runs, doomed the Cardinals in Game 1.

But J-L bounced back with a six-run fourth inning that saw Bailey Bennett record her third RBI of the game and Chelsea Ramage pinch hit and drive in two runs.

"In the first game, we had a struggle in the first inning," House said. "We just had jitters, and we had three freshmen playing right off the bat. We had inexperienced players in who didn't play at all last year."

The younger players eventually calmed down and became comfortable at their positions, but their errors in the first frame were too much for the Cardinals to overcome.

"Overall, I was expecting the errors, and there were quite a few," House said. "That's where they (Bellaire) got the runs from.

"Otherwise, it would have been a neck-and-neck game, and our team really came back and battled."

After the Cardinals had trailed 10-0 to open Game 2, Kate Heidman's at bat helped two runs cross home plate, and then the senior scampered home on a passed ball to set up a five-run third inning.

J-L once again battled back after it had trailed 12-6 in the fifth, as a two-run triple to left field by Ramage trimmed the Cardinals' deficit to only four runs.

However, J-L couldn't muster any defense behind junior Anika Kierczynski, who started and pitched both games, in the sixth inning.

"Our battle was more so on offense than on defense," House said. "Anika is coming back, and she's not the fastest (pitcher). But she's consistent and gets it over the plate. We know they're going to have hits, so we just kind of have to work on defense now."

The Cardinals (0-2) return to action Thursday when they visit Mancelona for a Ski Valley game.

They hope to rely on their hitting while they improve their defense going forward.

"If you look at the score, yes, the margin might be big," House said. "But if you can just get those errors down on defense, we could potentially win every single one now because we're such fighters at bat."

Back to Top

Overcoming inexperience: Cardinals hope to groom young talent like past seasons
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Chelsea Ramage was in her teammate's position last season.

Then a sophomore, Ramage was new to the Johannesburg-Lewiston softball team, and her talent was too raw to become the starting catcher.

By the time the Division 4 district tournament rolled around, Ramage was contributing as a starter and showing how, over the course of a season, she had harnessed that raw talent to help the Cardinals.

Now the Cardinals face a similar situation, as six of their 14 players are underclassmen while a handful of others have limited playing experience.

Improvement will be vital for each of them this spring.

"It's all about working with the team and taking criticism and just going with it," Ramage said. "If they (coaches and teammates) tell you something, they're just trying to help and not put you down.

"They want to make you better for the team."

Ramage, a junior, joins senior Faith Bartle and juniors Bailey Bennett and Anika Kierczynski as J-L's most experienced players this year.

But gaining that experience was a long road for Ramage.

"(Former J-L player) Mady Ewing was the starting catcher last season," Ramage said. "Coming in, all I wanted to do was catch. I remember being at tryouts and seeing Mady Ewing catching. I said to myself that there was no way I could make it to the point she was at and that I'd never be that good by the time I was a senior.

"I kept talking myself down, but Mady said I had the raw talent and could see it in me."

Along with J-L coach Ashlie House and assistant Sydney McKenney, Ewing taught Ramage the tricks to improving in practice.

"When I got down on myself, Mady would say we should take a break and shake it off," Ramage said. "She'd see me get down and tell me to shake off my mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes in high school softball. You just need to learn from those mistakes and play off them."

And that's what the Cardinals hope they can do all season.

Back are the upperclassmen as mentioned earlier as well as Kate Heidman, Destiny Pryor, Madyson Hague, Mikayla Tranchida and Torrie Crandell.

The team welcomes freshmen Jordyn Stark, Devyn McVannel, Grace Boden, Whitney Fox and Emily Steffke.

The Cardinals fell to Hillman, which lost in the D4 state semifinal, in the district tournament last season. They hope to improve on that finish this year, but they also understand how tough it'll be with the amount of inexperience they have on their roster.

"We want to work together as a team, know our strength and weaknesses and play off that," Ramage said. "Wins are something we want, and we'll work toward those.

"But right now, it is about playing as a team and not as an individual or worrying about our personal stats. We need to help each other to get to where we need to go. Wins would be great, but the losses will be helpful, too."

Back to Top

Softball 2015

Softball 2014

Softball 2013

Softball 2012

J-L Sporting Event Ticket Prices

Adults ~ $5.00
Students ~ $3.00
Family ~$12.00


Updated 8/21/16