Lady Cards continue rebuild, growth during district softball loss to Tigers
GAYLORD — The future is bright for the Johannesburg-Lewiston varsity softball team, despite its early exit from the Division 4 district tournament.
The Cardinals started three sophomores during Monday's 12-2 district semifinal loss to Hillman at St. Mary.
The Tigers advanced to the championship where they defeated host St. Mary and earned a regional semifinal bid, but it was the Cardinals who walked away with some peace of mind.
"I was able to get two freshmen (Brooke McKenney and Torrie Crandell) a lot of playing time this year," said J-L second-year coach Ashlie House. "And I got time for (sophomores) Chelsea Ramage and Maddy Hague. These guys improved big, too.
"It's tough that we're losing six seniors because they're a great bunch. But I wish I would have been working with them since their freshman year like I did with my current freshmen and sophomores, but I only got them as juniors."
Although House's freshmen didn't impact Saturday's game, a few of her sophomores — Ramage, Anika Kierczynski and Bailey Bennett — contributed throughout the loss.
Kierczynski pitched three innings. She walked only two Tigers and struck out another two before senior Allison Ellis replaced her in the fourth inning.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Hillman scored the game's first four runs on J-L defensive errors. That included Hillman's Vanessa Schook scoring twice on passed balls in the first and second innings.
The Tigers added two more runs in the third inning to take a 6-0 lead.
"The errors come at the wrong time and with people on base," House said. "We should have held them to one run when we had two outs, but we had the ball go through a glove in the first inning."
The Cardinals trimmed their deficit to 6-2 in the fourth inning.
Mady Ewing singled to get on base, and then Gracie Kierczynski doubled. They each made it home after a sacrifice fly from Emily Aisthorpe and a hit from Anika Kierczynski.
"We had kind of a slower start and left a couple girls on base," House said. "But we've been killing the ball. We always have an inning where the offense is good or the defense is good, but we could never put the two things together."
Hillman broke the game open by scoring six runs in the fifth inning — three runs on wild pitches alone.
"It just seems like it's been an entire season of our team pulling the one-inning card," House said. "We've showed potential, and the games can go either way. It's just always one inning due to errors when we lose games."
J-L finished with six hits, including two from Ewing. Haylie Haase and Bennett each added one hit. Hillman walked Ellis once and hit Ramage with a pitch. Gracie Kierczynski stole one base.
Schook led Hillman by scoring three runs, singling once and walking twice. Morgan Dove and Morgan Armon each scored twice, and Armon also added three hits.
"They made good hits, but it was just the errors that cost us," House said. "It could have gone both ways without the errors."
Defensively, Schook struck out two Cardinals.
The Cardinals graduate seniors Aisthorpe, Ellis, Ewing, Haase, Gracie Kierczynski and Meagan Holt. The Herald Times named Ellis its Player of the Year during her junior season while Aisthorpe was also on its All-Area team last spring.
However, the team is expected to return two juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen, among a host of incoming freshmen this fall.
Lady Cards fall to hot-pitching Red Devils in softball season finale
EAST JORDAN — Johannesburg-Lewiston struggled at the plate in its regular season finale Thursday, as its varsity softball team fell 9-3 at East Jordan.
The Red Devils captured a 3-0 lead in the first inning. They tacked on two runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings.
East Jordan pitcher Lindsay Schroeder struck out five Cardinals and allowed five hits — all late in the game.
"The girls played awesome defense, but we struggled with our bats," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "Their pitcher was quicker than what we've seen this season."
J-L scored one run in the fifth and two more in the sixth inning.
Chelsea Ramage smacked a double that hit the fence while Mady Ewing, Bailey Bennett, Gracie Kierczynski, Faith Bartle and Brooke McKenney all singled once.
"We finally got our bats going later in the game, but it was too late by then," House said.
J-L pitcher Anika Kierczynski walked three Red Devils and gave up 10 hits.
"Anika pitched well and was over the play," House said. "Her defense was on her helping, too."
The Cardinals face Hillman in the Division 4 district semifinal Saturday at William Mackowiak Sports Complex in Gaylord.
Lady Cards fall to Inland Lakes, beat Harbor Springs on the road
JOHANNESBURG — Errors cost Johannesburg-Lewiston a pair of wins Thursday, as its varsity softball team fell to Inland Lakes 11-2 and 11-2 in a Ski Valley doubleheader at home.
In the first game, Inland Lakes had led J-L 1-0 until it capitalized on several errors to score five runs in the fourth inning and breakaway from the Cardinals.
J-L scored two runs on three walks in the bottom of the fourth.
The Cardinals dropped the second game, despite leading Inland Lakes 2-0 until the third inning.
Haylie Haase finished with one hit and scored one run while Allison Ellis also had one hit.
J-L split a non conference doubleheader Wednesday at Harbor Springs, falling 10-9 in the first game and winning 11-10 in the second.
In Game 2, Emily Aisthorpe smacked a two-run single in the seventh inning that gave J-L the win.
Aisthorpe also laid down a triple, Ellis drove in one run and Mady Ewing finished with three RBIs.
Harbor Springs won Game 2 by scoring four runs in the first, two in the fifth and three in the final innings.
Ewing finished with a two-run double, Haase drove in one run, and Anika Kierczynski and Emily Aisthorpe each doubled once.
In a May 16 tournament at Central Lake, J-L defeated Mancelona and the Trojans, but it fell to Onaway in the semifinal round.
Schultz, Sullivan homer four times as Snowbirds beat Trojans
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston catcher Chelsea Ramage blasted a solo home run, leading the varsity softball team to a pair of wins over visiting Forest Area in Ski Valley action Thursday.
The Cardinals, 9-13 overall and 6-6 in conference, dispatched the Warriors 9-1 and 9-7 in a conference doubleheader.
In the first game, J-L scored three runs in the first, two in the third and four in the sixth to get by Forest Area.
Emily Aisthorpe was 3-for-3 with one RBI while Mady Ewing finished 2-for-2, drove in one run and had one double. Ramage doubled and also had one home run.
J-L pitcher Allison Ellis struck out nine Warriors and walked one.
The Cardinals narrowly edged the Warriors in the second game, requiring their defense to halt a Forest Area rally in the final inning.
J-L had led 9-4 when Forest Area scored three runs in the sixth.
Haylie Haase and Aisthorpe led J-L with three hits apiece, and Ramage added two hits. Aisthorpe and Ewing each drove in three runs.
Ellis finished with nine strikeouts and allowed three walks.
Hurons sweep Lady Cards in non conference competition
ROGERS CITY — The Cardinals couldn't get past last season's Division 4 state champions Tuesday.
Rogers City took down J-L 15-2 and 11-6 in a non conference doubleheader.
The Hurons used an 11-run third inning to beat J-L in the first game, despite no Cardinals striking out at bat.
Ewing finished with one double, one triple and drove in one run. Anika Kierczynski and Faith Bartle each recorded one hit.
Ellis fanned two batters.
In the second game, Rogers City posted a 10-run third inning to drop the Cardinals.
J-L grabbed a 4-0 advantage in the first inning and had led 5-1 before the Hurons put together their big third-inning effort.
Gracie Kierczynski had two RBIs, and Haase tripled. Ramage, Ellis, Aisthorpe, and Bailey Bennett each drove in one run.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times
CENTRAL LAKE — After a slow start to the season, Johannesburg-Lewiston rebounded by splitting a varsity softball doubleheader Thursday at Central Lake.
The Cardinals, 7-11 overall and 4-6 in the Ski Valley, fell to the Trojans 7-2 in the first game but downed Central Lake 6-1 in the second game.
Central Lake overcame J-L's tough bats to win the first game. Haylie Haase led the Cardinals with two hits. Emily Aisthorpe drove in one run and had one double, and Mady Ewing and Gracie Kierczynski each hit.
Defensively, J-L's underclassmen stepped up. Chelsea Ramage started at catcher while Bailey Bennett finished with three putouts. Anika Kierczynski was the starting pitcher, making only her third career start.
In the second game, the Cardinals committed no turnovers and relied on its defense to put away Central Lake.
Aisthorpe ended with six putouts, and pitcher Allison Ellis struck out six batters and walked only one.
Aisthorpe and Ellis each drove in two runs and had one double as well.
Ewing and Gracie Kierczynski each had two hits. Bennett doubled, and Haase and Faith Bartle had one hit apiece.
The Cardinals return to action Tuesday when they visit Rogers City.
Lady Cards handle Hornets in conference twin bill, fall to Ironmen in tournament
After a rocky start to the season, the Johannesburg-Lewiston softball team is beginning to gel as a team, and the wins are following suit.
The Cardinals inched closer to a .500 winning percentage Monday when they dispatched Pellston 13-4 and 10-4 in a conference doubleheader.
In the first game, J-L scored five runs in the fourth inning and four runs in the fifth to pull away from the Hornets. That effort included Chelsea Ramage hitting a triple to drive in two runs.
Bailey Bennett finished with two hits, two RBIs and one triple, and Gracie Kierczynski added a triple as well.
Pitcher Allison Ellis struck out six batters.
Kierczynski, who normally plays outfield because of her experience as a senior, replaced starter Emily Aisthorpe (injured) at first base.
"Gracie stepped up to be our first baseman for Emily, and she was huge today," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "Our biggest play of the day would go to Gracie.
"Gracie caught for us a little last year, but I directed her to the outfield this year because she is solid and can stay calm. She has a good arm, and you need that in the outfield. So when Emily got hurt, Gracie's fundamentals were what I knew we needed at first base."
The Cardinals scored nine runs in the second and third innings to take down Pellston in the second game, and Ellis struck out five batters.
Ramage, Bennett, Anika Kierczynski and Mady Ewing each had two hits. Ellis and Ewing both doubled, and Gracie Kierczynski finished with one double and four RBIs.
House said J-L's outfield helped secure the win in Game 2.
"My outfield did well in the second game," House said. "Brook McKenney had quite a few stops in left field, and Bailey had a couple of stops out there, too. They're really starting to stop the ball in the air."
Lady Cards place second in Val Kapture softball tournament
JOHANNESBURG — The Cardinals took second in their annual Val Kapture softball tournament held Saturday at J-L.
They fell to Mancelona 4-3 in the championship game after the Ironmen scored three runs, including the game-winning score, in the sixth inning.
J-L had led 1-0 until it allowed Mancelona to score once in the fifth inning. The Cardinals returned serve by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but Mancelona had timely hitting in the sixth to grab the win.
Ellis recorded an inside-the-park home run, Haylie Haase ripped a double, and Ewing and Ramage each had one hit.
Ellis pitched a complete game, struck out six and allowed no walks.
The Cardinals defeated Atlanta 15-1 in the semifinal to advance to face the Ironmen in the championship.
Ellis led her team by laying down three hits, including one triple and one double, and she fanned 12 batters on the mound.
Gracie Kierczynski finished with three hits and one double, and Bennett, McKenney and Madyson Hague each had two hits. Anika Kierczynski smacked a double.
Ellsworth edges Cardinals in tough non conference doubleheader
ELLSWORTH — The Cardinals lost two close games to host Ellsworth in non conference play Wednesday, despite Bennett playing well in both games.
The Lancers edged J-L 7-6 and 11-8, and Bennett's bat was responsible for keeping the Cardinals (6-10, 3-5 Ski Valley) in each contest.
In the first game, Ellsworth took advantage of several J-L errors to score four runs in the sixth inning and defeat the Cardinals.
Bennett finished with two hits and drove in four RBIs while Aisthorpe recorded two hits and one RBI. Faith Bartle hit a double.
Ellis pitched a complete game, struck out five and allowed five hits.
Ellsworth scored five runs in each of the first and second innings to pull away from J-L early in the second game.
Gracie Kierczynski smacked one home run and also had a double, and Bennett had three hits and two RBIs. Haase had one hit.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times
ALANSON — Johannesburg-Lewiston finally avoided the one-inning let down its varsity softball team has become accustomed to giving up during games this season.
The Cardinals edged host Alanson 12-11 in Game 1 of a non conference doubleheader Wednesday, despite allowing the Vikings to score seven runs in the fifth inning.
Haylie Haase led J-L by driving in four runs, scoring two of her own and finishing with a double. Madyson Hague, who filled in for missing starter Mady Ewing, had two RBIs, one hit and a sacrifice bunt.
Emily Aisthorpe ended with two hits and two RBIs, and Anika Kierczynski had a double, triple and two RBIs.
Also for the Cardinals, Grace Kierczynski recorded two hits and one double, Faith Bartle finished with a double and triple, and Bailey Bennett had two hits, two runs and one RBI.
"They really nailed the ball in the first game," J-L coach Ashlie House said.
Pitcher Allison Ellis struck out 11 batters for the Cardinals.
Alanson defeated J-L 4-3 in the second game after the Cardinals couldn't find open holes against the Vikings' defense.
"We came out strong, but we hit the ball to their players," House said. "Our batters got us on that one, but they played a great two games."
Aisthorpe helped J-L by batting in three runs and having two hits, but she left the game with an ankle injury. Bartle added two hits, and Hague had one.
Ellis finished with six strikeouts and allowed four hits.
Onaway sweeps J-L behind two key innings in Ski Valley matchup
ONAWAY — The Cardinals continued action Thursday, falling to host Onaway 11-3 and 5-2 in Ski Valley play.
In the first game, Onaway scored four runs in the fourth inning to pull away from J-L.
Hague and Ewing each had two hits while Ewing also had one double. Anika Kierczynski, Chelsea Ramage and Bennett smacked one hit apiece.
"We hit the ball to somebody in the infield every time," House said.
In Game 2, Onaway snapped a 2-2 tie inning by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth. It hit two doubles and then a single to push in the final runs.
Ellis drove in one run with a triple, and Ewing and Anika Kierczynski each played well for J-L. Kierczynski finished with two hits and forced two double plays.
Several Lady Cards chip in to edge Bellaire in softball clash
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times
BELLAIRE — Johannesburg-Lewiston used its bats to split a varsity softball doubleheader Monday at Bellaire.
The Cardinals, 2-6 overall and 1-5 in the Ski Valley, edged Bellaire 4-2 in game 1 of the twin bill before losing 10-5 in Game 2.
Mady Ewing led J-L with two hits in the first game while Allison Ellis, Emily Aisthorpe, Chelsea Ramage and Anika Kierczynski each had one hit.
Kierczynski also made a key double play that preserved the win.
Ellis pitched six innings, struck out six and allowed six hits.
"The girls came out and hit the ball well and fielded the ball well, too," J-L coach Ashlie House said.
In the second game, Bellaire scored seven runs in the fifth inning to put away the Cardinals.
Ellis fanned 10 batters and gave up 10 hits.
"Bellaire had some good hits, and they hit the ball where we weren't standing," House said.
"We just have to get out of these one-inning slumps we seem to get into during games."
J-L returns to action Wednesday when it visits Alanson.
Cardinals suffer losses to Ironmen in softball doubleheader
Errors cost Johannesburg-Lewiston a pair of wins Friday, as its varsity softball team fell to visiting
Mancelona scored five runs early in Game 1, capitalizing on J-L mistakes. J-L (1-5, 0-4 Ski Valley) also struggled with hitting.
"We didn't do so hot with our bats, and we struck out quite a bit," J-L coach Ashlie House said.
J-L pitcher Allison Ellis went six innings and struck out eight batters.
The Ironmen scored three runs early in Game 2 after J-L committed additional errors in the infield.
The Cardinals added two runs in the sixth inning and put two more runners on base but couldn't bring them home to continue the rally.
"We can't keeping have one-inning games where we make a bunch of errors and shoot ourselves in the foot," House added.
Ellis pitched a complete game, fanned 10 batters and allowed six hits.
Emily Aisthorpe batted in one run and scored once while Faith Bartle, Chelsea Ramage, Bailey Bennett and Ellis each had one hit.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times
GAYLORD — St. Mary coach Pat Schultz challenged his softball team to play outstanding defense against cross-county rival Johannesburg-Lewiston, and the Snowbirds went above and beyond the second-year coach's expectations Thursday.
They overcame their inexperience to defeat the Cardinals 5-1 and 10-4 in a Ski Valley doubleheader at William Mackowiak Sports Complex.
St. Mary, 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference, started three freshmen, one sophomore and only two upperclassmen in its infield to get the job done.
"I couldn't have been more happy with how soundly these young girls played on defense tonight," Schultz said. "They covered bunts, rotated on defense and made all the plays a team should make. In only our second doubleheader on varsity, I'm ecstatic with how our team played despite our inexperience and youth."
In the first game, St. Mary senior Savannah Sullivan smacked a double that narrowly missed going over the fence but drove in Katie Rutkowski in the first inning. The play erased St. Mary's one-run deficit from a solo home run hit by J-L senior Allison Ellis on the game's second pitch.
On the next at-bat, St. Mary's Bekah Myler laid down a grounder that scored Sullivan and gave the Snowbirds the victory.
Sullivan finished the game with three hits, and she also pitched the entire game and struck out five batters. St. Mary's vacuum effort on defense assisted her in the win.
"Every time we got a hit, it went right to them," J-L coach Ashlie House said. "It wasn't that their pitcher was getting us with strikes. We were getting hits and hits, but I give kudos to their fielding. They were making stops."
Ellis pitched five innings and fanned five batters.
In the second inning of Game 2, Sullivan snapped a 3-3 tie by hitting a single that scored Rutkowski. Gabby Schultz then popped a fly to right field on the next at bat that sent Sullivan home and secured the win.
The Snowbirds scored five more insurance runs before game's end while Sullivan and Maggie Schultz each had one double, and Gabby Schultz added a triple. Sullivan fanned four batters on the mound.
Ellis finished with two hits, and Chelsea Ramage, Gracie Kierczynski and Bailey Bennett each helped the Cardinals' offensive effort.
"JoBurg put the bat on the ball and were determined to swing," Coach Schultz said. "But these young girls helped Savannah on defense tonight, and I'm so happy for them. They were the key to the win, and that's usually not the case when Savannah pitches."
Ellis pitched to 35 batters, striking out two and allowing six hits. She struggled with an illness that limited her throwing for the entire doubleheader.
"Alli has only been to three practices so far this season, so that's taken a toll on the team," House said. "If she didn't have the pain, she'd be throwing a lot harder and faster. She's had to change her pitching style because of her health."
St. Mary returns to action Tuesday when it visits Hillman for a non conference doubleheader.
Lady Cards split with Comets in home opener
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston backup pitcher Anika Kierczynski stepped up and replaced starter Allison Ellison (illness) in non conference play Friday.
The Cardinals, 1-3 overall, split with visiting Mackinaw City 21-19 and 21-6 in a doubleheader, with J-L winning the second game.
Kierczynski pitched six innings, struck out six batters and allowed 13 hits in Game 1.
The sophomore rebounded by giving up only nine hits in the second game. Haylie Haase helped J-L by hitting a triple and scoring four runs. Emily Aisthorpe added five RBIs, Mady Ewing recorded three RBIs and Faith Bartle ended with two hits and two RBIs.
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston shocked even its own coach when its softball team fought for a conference title last season.
Ashlie House, who was named head coach less than a month before the season started, put together a competitive squad that just fell short behind St. Mary and Central Lake in the Ski Valley Conference race.
With a year under her belt and the team's foundation now built, House hopes the Cardinals can go from up-and-comers to Ski Valley champions — a turnaround few could have imagined last spring.
"Our main goal is to win the conference this season," she said. "We were close last year, especially during our first year coming out. But to do that, we have to take care of our little individual goals of improving our hitting, increasing our home runs and improving our record."
If the Cardinals do complete the turnaround, they'll do so without a few key starters from last season. They graduated all three of their starting outfielders, Miranda Kortman, Sydney McKenney and Julia Nieman, and will have young faces replacing them.
While House will plug in senior Gracie Kierczynski into left field, sophomore Bailey Bennett moves into right field while freshman Brooke McKenney and sophomore Madyson Hague will split time in center field.
In the infield, Emily Aisthorpe (first base), Allison Ellis (pitcher), Mady Ewing (catcher) and Haylie Haase (third) return as House's senior leaders.
"Haylie is one of our captains this year, and she's an all-around, great leader both on and off the field," House said. "Mady is looking better and stronger from a catching standpoint. Her mentality as a catcher is developing and improving, and her relationship with Ellis is good."
Ellis, who was last season's Herald Times All-Area Player of the Year, will compete with St. Mary's Savannah Sullivan as the top ace in the conference.
As a junior, she led J-L to a 16-11 record while pitching 124 innings in 23 games. She struck out 151 batters, walked 65 and allowed 94 hits.
"She has been really working hard on her own time this year," House said. "She doesn't play any other sport but softball. She's excited to bring it to every team this year. I've watched her pitch already, and she's a lot faster than last year."
The second-year coach also hopes sophomore Anika Kierczynski (second) and junior Faith Bartle (shortstop) can contribute immediately.
"Faith started to get her bat going last season and also got her confidence up," House said. "Her arm is getting better and her speed is there, defensively."
The Cardinals will play well behind Ellis' pitching, but they'll also rely on their hitting just as much. With two of their top three batters back from last year — Ellis and Aisthorpe — they should have no problem replicating last year's numbers.
"I want our hitting to be a force to be reckoned with," House said. "I want other teams to see us and say, 'watch out because that team can get hits, bunt and aggressively run the bases.'
"We have some hitting to replace, but that's where we're trying to get better at this year. We want to be better with the all-around aspect of hitting."
The Cardinals proved last season their goals are obtainable. If they can continue improving throughout the season, a district title may become more of a goal than just winning the Ski Valley. But in the second year of rebuilding the team, not even postseason success would surprise House or her over-achieving players.
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