Cardinals' hitters come alive during 2nd-place finish in weekend tournament
WHITTEMORE – The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team settled for second in a tournament after it couldn't stave off Mio's late comeback performance Saturday at Whittemore-Prescott.
The Cardinals (9-17, 4-8 SVC) lost to Mio 10-9 in the championship after they gave up the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
Kevin Gehringer's two-run single that scored Jett Ewing and Grant Koronka earlier in the sixth helped J-L knot it up 9-9 after the Cardinals had allowed Mio to score four runs one inning earlier.
"We're coming along," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "I thought it was good for us to see two teams we don't normally see. We didn't play terrible, but we had a few defensive mistakes in the second game that cost us three or four runs. Other than that, it was good for us.
"It was a few more at-bats for our guys, and that's what I wanted."
Gehringer finished with two hits and four RBIs, while Koronka added two hits and drove in two runs. Tanner Shimel had two hits.
Dylan Agee started for the Cardinals, pitching three innings and allowing six hits, no earned runs and one walk. He struck out six before Matt Ross and Cody Haase finished the game in relief.
In J-L's opener, it rode Tyler Madej's pitching and a 10-run fourth inning past host W-P for a 17-6 win and to advance to the championship.
Madej lasted five innings and struck out three. He allowed seven hits, four walks and three earned runs.
"I thought he threw well, and he had a lot of strikes," Proctor said. "They put the ball in play, and we played pretty good defense behind him."
In the fourth, Madej's fly ball to right drove home Jacob Smith, who was 5-for-5 batting with seven RBIs, for the winning run.
Shimel finished 4-for-4 with one RBI and four runs, and Haase helped with three hits, three runs and two RBIs.
"We started pounding the ball and got the big hits when we needed," Proctor said. "We loaded the bases and chipped them around one at a time. We had 22 hits in the game.
"It just seemed like the kids were seeing the ball. They (W-P) switched a couple of pitchers, but we just hit everything hard. We were patient at the plate and picked out the pitches we wanted."
Cardinals' Shimel drives in winning run against Ironmen
MANCELONA – The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team picked up a late comeback win thanks to Tanner Shimel's bat Friday night.
The sophomore singled to center to snap a sixth-inning tie and bring home Dylan Agee and Joe Hofer for the winning runs during Game 1 of a 4-2 Ski Valley victory at Mancelona.
The Cardinals (8-16, 4-8 SVC) wound up losing the nightcap, 7-0.
"I talked to the kids about how I was really happy with what happened in Game 1," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "We put ourselves in a position to win. We've made mistakes in the past that would have gotten us down, but they battled all six innings and ended up winning."
Also in the sixth inning of Game 1, Jett Ewing singled to left to drive in Tyler Madej and tie it 2-2 to set up Shimel's late heroics.
Madej finished 3-for-3, while Hofer and Shimel each added two hits.
"We had a shaky start but worked ourselves through it," said Proctor, whose team collected 10 hits. "We put a couple of big hits together, which we hadn't been doing earlier in the game."
Mason Kortman went the distance pitching, striking out five Ironmen and giving up only five hits, one earned run and one walk.
J-L could drum up only four hits in the second game, while Mancelona plated four runs in the opening frame to secure the win.
Only Ewing, Hofer, Kortman and Jacob Smith got hits for J-L.
"The second game just didn't go our way," Proctor said. "We had a couple of good efforts hitting, but it wasn't anything extravagant. Our bats fell off, but you're talking about high school kids. It happens, I guess.
"And, obviously, I'd like to win two, but I wasn't upset because winning one game is a lot better than nothing."
In four innings pitching, Shimel scattered 11 hits and allowed six earned runs and one walk. Cody Haase pitched in relief.
"We had a couple of errors defensively, but Mancelona really hit the ball well in the second game," Proctor said.
Cardinals maintain energy during 2-loss outing at Boyne City
BOYNE CITY – Some questionable umpiring kept the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team from staying on top of its game.
But coach Cody Proctor is just happy his Cardinals (7-15, 3-7 SVC) kept their energy level up during the doubleheader, as Boyne City swept visiting J-L 16-0 and 9-0 in non-conference action Tuesday.
"I thought, for the most part, they stayed upbeat and positive throughout the whole thing," the first-year coach said. "The first game was no good at all, but the second game started OK, and we did well until about the third inning."
Dylan Agee, who recorded J-L's lone hit in Game 1, started on the mound and fanned one Rambler.
However, he struggled with balks and couldn't straighten out his pitching before Boyne City had already grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first inning.
"He got rattled early," Proctor said.
The Cardinals collected five hits in the nightcap, as Jett Ewing led the way with two.
Matt Ross started and pitched four complete innings, striking out five and allowing seven hits and five walks.
Jacob Smith came in for one relief inning. He didn't give up a hit but walked two.
"Our kids' energy level stayed up," Proctor said. "We talked about it after the game, and maybe our focus wasn't completely there.
"From taking infield at the start of the game until the end, I don't know if our focus was all there. We talked about turning that into a learning experience."
By Brandon Folsom ~ Gaylord Herald Times
JOHANNESBURG – To some, it might look like Jacob Smith keeps posting the same picture of him holding a home run ball on his Instagram page.
But that's actually not the case. Each picture has been posted following a different game.
The latest snapshot to appear on the Johannesburg-Lewiston senior's IG account came Monday, as he ripped homers No's. 4 and 5 during an 8-1 and 15-0 sweep of visiting Bellaire in a Ski Valley baseball doubleheader.
Smith homered during his first at-bat of each game.
"He's just seeing the ball well and drives the fastball really well," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "When teams groove him a fastball, he hits them hard. He hit like three or four of them off Alanson's fence when we went over there last week."
The homers have been a boon for the Cardinals (7-13, 3-7 SVC), who have been battling sluggishness lately.
"For sure, we were dead until the second game against Onaway (last week), and then our dugout got rowdy," Smith said. "We lost that game, but it was close, but we brought that (rowdiness) right back tonight. You could tell, and it showed.
"We got up (after both home runs), and it definitely showed."
Smith was 2-for-3 batting with five RBIs in the first game, while Dan Runyan went 2-for-4 with two runs.
Mason Kortman pitched a three-hitter in six innings, fanning eight Eagles and walking none.
"I think at the beginning of the year, Smitty was trying to do too much with his bat and wanted to always hit home runs," Proctor said. "I'm working with him on getting him to go down the middle. His homers tonight went to left-center and straight out of center field. He's letting his bat do the work for him now."
Smith and Runyan each added two hits and three RBIs in the nightcap.
After the game, a Bellaire outfielder estimated Smith's second home run traveled almost 390 feet before it landed.
"It was just aggressiveness, I guess," Smith said. "I just told myself to hit the ball. It just kind of happened."
Tanner Shimel, who was 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs in Game 2, tossed a two-hitter on the mound. He struck out five and walked three in four innings.
The pair of wins marked Proctor's first sweep of a conference opponent since taking over the team earlier this spring.
"I'm happy to finally get the two wins for our team," Smith said. "The home runs were definitely the cherry on top, but I'm really happy with the team getting the two conference wins. The coaches and us have been hoping for that for awhile, and we finally turned things around to do it."
Hit parade vs. Vikings allows Cardinals to snap 6-game losing streak
By Brandon Folsom ~ Gaylord Herald Times
ALANSON – That's one way to snap a six-game losing streak.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team (5-11, 1-5 SVC) swept host Alanson 31-9 and 17-2 in a non-conference doubleheader Wednesday.
The Cardinals collected 18 hits as a team in the first game.
"This is a confidence boost for us," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "One through 13, the kids, when given the opportunity, hit the crap out of the ball.
"It's been tough when you see a bunch of balls and then see a strike and are aggressive enough to tag it and put it in play. We weren't looking for walks. We hit the ball hard."
J-L scored 10 runs in the third inning and another 11 in the fifth to secure the win.
Jacob Smith was 4-for-5 batting with four RBIs, while Cody Haase went 3-for-3 with three walks. Dan Runyan added three hits and four RBIs.
Tyler Madej struck out four Vikings in four innings. Grant Koronka earned the save by getting three outs with only three pitches in the fifth frame.
"Hopefully, we can continue this and carry over that hitting into our next game," Proctor said.
In the nightcap, the Cardinals scored eight runs in the first frame, four in the second and five in the third to earn the three-inning mercy rule win.
Kevin Gehringer paced J-L by finishing 3-for-4 batting, followed by Allen Morgan who was 2-for-2 with a walk. Tanner Shimel added two hits.
Smith went the distance on the mound, striking out seven and allowing three earned runs.
Errors doom Cardinals in 2 losses to visiting Bulldogs
JOHANNESBURG – When the season started, one of the best attributes of the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team was how well it played defense.
That hasn't been the case for the Cardinals (3-11, 1-5 SVC) in their past six games.
That bad luck streak also includes their 11-0 and 13-7 losses to visiting Inland Lakes during a Ski Valley doubleheader Monday, as error after error marred their play.
"I think our kids, after we get an error or two early in the game, have a hard time pulling themselves together," J-L coach Cody Proctor said." I don't know if it's our youth or lack of experience or what. We can score runs. We just have to put it all together, and we're having a hard time doing that."
In the first game, Mason Kortman struck out three Bulldogs and walked three, but the senior didn't have much help from the Cardinals defense.
Inland Lakes used a pair of five-run innings in the first and fifth innings to secure the mercy-rule win.
"I thought Mason pitched well and threw a lot of strikes," Proctor said. "His off-speed stuff isn't working as well as I'd like, but he pitched to contact and with the new pitch count rules, it's what you got to do. We just didn't back him up."
Proctor estimated the Cardinals defense made 10 errors, including at least four in the first frame alone.
"I don't have the answer for that," the first-year coach said. "I feel like that was one of our strong points to start the year.
"I don't know if we're getting lazy or what. I'm just not sure."
Tanner Shimel, Jacob Smith, Kevin Gehringer and Cody Haase had J-L's only hits.
In the nightcap, J-L used a five-run fourth inning to knot the score 6-6, but it gave up seven runs in the final two frames.
That fourth inning was capped off by Smith's two-run double that scored Haase and Dan Runyan.
"We started turning it on in the fourth inning," Proctor said.
"Our wheels kind of fell off because we weren't very composed. We gave up five runs in the sixth inning, and I think there were three errors in that inning."
Smith led J-L with four hits and three RBIs, while Shimel added four hits and Haase had three. The Cardinals had 18 hits as a team.
Shimel went five innings on the mound, striking out three and walking four.
"Tanner pitched well," Proctor said.
Grand slam! Cardinals' Runyan homers to get out of batting slump
JOHANNESBURG – Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Cody Proctor said Dan Runyan was his best slugger when he coached the young man in Little League.
However, Runyan hasn't had the best start to the season at the plate for the J-L baseball team this spring.
The freshman entered the weekend batting only .300 with six hits and a pair of RBIs.
That all changed during the annual Val Kapture tournament Saturday. Runyan belted a grand slam and drummed up some confidence for himself during the Cardinals' 10-6 loss to Hillman in the tournament consolation game.
J-L (3-9, 1-3 SVC) also dropped its semifinal matchup to Mancelona 11-7 earlier that morning.
"It's been hard getting on the ball with my high school career starting as a freshman, and I've been trying to get used to the pitching at the varsity level," Runyan said. "I didn't even know it was out until I was at second base. It shocked me.
"I hit one (home run) in Little League but not yet in high school, and I didn't expect that one to go out."
The dinger came in the top of the six with the Cardinals trailing 10-2.
There were two outs, but J-L had Allen Morgan, Grant Koronka and Tanner Shimel on base.
"I was up to bat, and the first and second pitches were balls," Runyan recalled. "I swung and missed a few times, and I fouled a couple off, and then the next one looked good enough. I hit it, and it was gone."
The Cardinals' comeback attempt was stopped short quickly afterward.
But the play made Runyan's coach happy that the freshman got getting his bat going finally.
"He hasn't hit the ball well all year long," Proctor said. "I've moved him up the lineup, though. He started ninth in my lineup Thursday. I put him up to five against Mancelona and in the second game, he hit in the two spot.
"I'd say that's a pretty good milestone for him because he was my best hitter in Little League. Hopefully, he's out of his hitting funk, but it's been a mental thing. He's been down on himself with this huge hitting slump.
"Hopefully he got himself out of it today."
Runyan led J-L's hitters by going 2-for-3 with five RBIs.
Koronka and Allen each added a hit, while Noah Vermilya and Kevin Gehringer looked good for the Cardinals, too.
"They all hit the ball very well, and we hit the ball very well as a team," Proctor said. "But we had a couple of line shots to their shortstop and third baseman. But I was pleased with the guys who have done what I've asked of them."
Matt Ross started on the mound and lasted 50 pitches, giving up only three earned runs. Proctor pulled him before he reached the 75-pitch limit to keep him fresh for conference play next week.
Tyler Madej and Jacob Smith each pitched in relief.
Other than a pair of rough innings, J-L hung with Mancelona during the semifinal game.
The Cardinals gave up five runs in the first inning and another four in the sixth.
However, they scratched their way back into the game and even trimmed their deficit and knotted the score 5-5.
That comeback attempt included Joe Hofer hitting a two-run single to right field that scored Shimel and Madej in the first inning. In the second, Cody Haase singled to center to score Dylan Agee and Austin Carroll, and Madej used a line drive to bring home Shimel for the tie.
Jett Ewing (three runs) and Madej (two) finished with three hits apiece. Haase drove in two runs.
Agee pitched 5 2/3 innings, struck out five and gave up seven hits and five walks.
"Dylan is a guy who just throws strikes," Proctor said. "He doesn't overpower you or have crazy good off-speed, but he throws strikes and does that well. In the first inning, he struggled a little bit, but he had a hard time gripping the ball because he was freezing, but he pitched well. He hit his spots and threw strikes."
Happy birthday! Cardinals' Smith homers twice on coach's special day
EAST JORDAN – Wednesday was Cody Proctor's birthday.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team gave the first-year coach plenty to celebrate, including Jacob Smith homering twice to help the Cardinals sweep Ellsworth 13-3 and 8-7 in a non-conference doubleheader.
The series sweep was the first of Proctor's career and improved the Cardinals to 3-5 overall.
The game was moved to East Jordan because Ellsworth's field was water logged.
Smith's two-run homer to the short porch in center field capped off a four-run sixth inning in the first game.
"The first one, I had a two or three count on me, and the pitcher threw me a nice fastball," said Smith, who also hit a home run against Lincoln Alcona last week. "I saw it and hit it. I didn't know it was out at first."
Tanner Shimel helped with two hits, two RBIs and two runs, while Colby Culhane and Cody Haase each contributed a pair of hits, one RBI and two runs.
On the mound, Haase struck out four Lancers in five innings and allowed four hits and one walk.
Smith, who finished the series going 4-for-5 with two walks and five RBIs, has been improving his swinging since the start of the season and is getting back to the consistent hitter he was as a junior.
"He's actually swinging the bat really well right now," Proctor said. "Other than his first strikeout during his first at-bat of the game, he's thinking to swing, and he's doing a really good job in practice."
Smith credited his success to the extra work in practice he's had with Proctor and former players Logan Huff and Coalton Huff, the 2014 Herald Times Player of the Year.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the new swing and a lot of cage work and tee work," Smith said. "Proctor has done a lot with showing us what we're doing wrong and right and how to capitalize on each swing.
"I also have to give props to Logan and Coalton for coming in and helping us, and it's a huge effort for them."
The second game went into an extra inning after neither team could snap a 5-5 tie in the sixth frame.
The Cardinals added three runs in the seventh, including Mason Kortman hitting a sacrifice fly to right field that gave Tyler Madej enough time to scoot home for the winning run.
Trailing 8-5, Ellsworth tacked on two runs before J-L managed to record the game's final out.
Smith homered during his first at-bat. This one was a no-doubter, his coach said.
"That one would have been out at our field," Proctor said. "He killed it. It cleared the fence and was long gone on their short porch."
Added Smith: "It was a short field, for sure, but the second one would have cleared our J-L field. (Hitting two home runs) is a boost to my confidence, for sure. Hitting three in two games is a boost, too. I'm just listening to what my coach says and keeping it level and not swinging for the fences. That helps a lot.
"Coach says, 'Line drive – let's hit the ball,' and that's what I'm trying to do."
Jett Ewing added two hits and two RBIs, while Shimel had one hit and drove in two runs.
"The whole team is hitting better right now," Smith said. "Everyone started to crank the ball today."
Kortman struck out two in one inning, while Matt Ross fanned one, walked two and gave up two hits and two earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. Proctor pitched six Cardinals to keep them fresh for upcoming conference games.
GAYLORD – Andrew Greif was feeling it.
So the St. Mary senior let it rip and sent a line drive to center field that broke open a tight game and inspired the Snowbirds' baseball team to get their bats going in a 4-0 and 15-2 sweep of rival Johannesburg-Lewiston on Thursday at William Mackowiak Sports Complex.
Greif's heroics came in the third inning of Game 2 with St. Mary (14-4, 9-1 SVC) nursing only a 2-0 lead. His team went on to score five runs that frame, one the Snowbirds followed up with another nine runs in the fourth.
"We had a slow start, and it happens," Greif said. "We got over it and opened it up. Normally, once you string a few hits together, hitting starts to become contagious."
Drew Koenig paced the Snowbirds with two hits and three RBIs, Josh Nowicki added three hits and one RBI and Joseph Moeggenberg drove in two runs.
"I was concerned we were going to be flat – kind of like we were in that loss to Central Lake – so I was trying to pump them up and get them to work and not be flat anymore," St. Mary coach Matt Nowicki said. "Everyone needed to be pumped up.
"I don't know if it worked or not, but it was the third inning when we broke it up there and had clutch hits from Andrew Greif and Joseph Moggenberg to put us over the hump there."
Greif was just happy he could help his team put the pedal down and string runs together.
"I just thought I hadn't been hitting really good lately, so I thought it was my turn to break it open," the senior said. "I got (a pitch) high, I hit it and I thought the second baseman was going to catch it but it went over his head, and we were able to score."
Nick Torsky pitched a complete game, fanning eight Cardinals and giving up only two hits, one walk and no earned runs.
Cody Haase had J-L's only two hits, while Tanner Shimel took the loss pitching. The sophomore struck out three and allowed eight earned runs in the loss.
"I think there was some learning there for us," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "We talked after the game that I want them to understand you'll have bad innings.
"I felt like one bad inning led to the next. I got a lot of young guys, so it's a learning curve for them, and that's probably the best baseball team we'll see this season."
In the first game, Andrew Greif's chopper to shortstop scored Billy Koenig for the winning run in the second inning, while Greif scored the second run after the Cardinals (3-9, 1-3 SVC) loaded the bases and walked Torsky.
J-L was fortunate that ace Mason Kortman, who lasted five innings and struck out four and allowed only three earned runs and three walks, was able to pitch out of the bases-loaded jam after only allowing two runs to cross home plate.
"Defensively, I thought we played pretty well in that jam," Proctor said. "Mason fought himself out of it and pitched to contact.
"They put it in play, and we made defensive plays behind him."
St. Mary added an insurance run in the fourth inning after Nathan Wahr's sacrifice fly brought in Moeggenberg.
Billy Koenig brought in one more insurance run with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Drew Long in the fifth.
Offensively, Drew Koenig and Steven Koscielniak recorded St. Mary's only hits, while Long went six innings and pitched a no-hitter with six strikeouts.
The Snowbirds knew J-L was in a rebuilding year, but they didn't let that get the best of them during the series.
"We're not going to take anyone lightly," Greif said. "We still got to play the games and show up. We can't have any letdowns."
St. Mary just needs to work on those sluggish starts.
"I think we were kind of tight," Coach Nowicki said. "I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was Joburg. Whatever you say about their record, it doesn't matter. It's a rivalry game, and you can throw records out the window when we play each other.
"I think we were kind of tight. We talked about it between the two games and talked about loosening it up. It's still a game. You have to have fun and just play it."
Smith's homer helps Cardinals end hitting slump vs. Tigers
JOHANNESBURG – Jacob Smith picked the perfect time to notch his first-career home run.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team was in the middle of a horrible hitting slump, and the senior's two-run knock helped the Cardinals make things interesting against visiting Lincoln Alcona in a doubleheader Wednesday.
However, J-L (1-5, 1-1 SVC) ultimately dropped the non-conference series, 9-1 and 14-12.
"The first game, we didn't hit," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "It was kind of the same story it has been with the first couple games of the year. They (Alcona) had a no-hitter going into the last inning.
"But we ripped off a couple of runs to avoid being shut out."
The first game saw the Tigers score three runs in each of the second, fourth and fifth innings.
"I talked to them between games about hitting better," Proctor said. "In practice, I've brought in guys like (former J-L standout and 2014 Herald Times Player of the Year Coalton Huff), and they hit him all over the field.
"But they just couldn't hit any of the other guys tonight."
Smith clearly got Proctor's message.
In the second game, his two-run dinger pushed in Haase and him and helped the Cardinals garner a 6-1 advantage and finally get their bats going once and for all.
However, the Tigers scored three runs in the fifth inning to knot the score, 8-8.
J-L added a pair of runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings, but it allowed Alcona to cross home plate five times in the final frame.
"In the first three innings, we absolutely pounded the ball, and we pounded it hard," Proctor said. "We hit the ball well the entire game. Jacob's two-run homer, he smoked that one, and it was a hard-hit ball."
Smith was 2-for-2 batting with three RBIs and two walks. He also scored two runs.
Tanner Shimel scored J-L's lone run on a passed ball in the sixth inning.
Shimel and Cody Haase recorded both of the Cardinals' hits, while Haase pitched a complete game.
"He's really starting to come around with his bat again like last season," Proctor continued. "It was slow starting for him at the beginning of the year, and it has been for everybody, but yesterday in practice, he started hitting the ball hard. Obviously, today he had it going in the second game."
Tyler Madej led with three hits, five RBIs and a triple, while Haase had three hits, three RBIs and two runs.
Madej also pitched five innings and struck out seven Tigers.
Rain outs don't slow down Cardinals in split with Warriors
JOHANNESBURG – A schedule marred with snow days is what kept the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team from getting off to a hot start and finding its chemistry this past winter.
There were times when the Cardinals wouldn't play an actual game for nearly a month.
With the J-L baseball team missing 14 straight days of action because of rain outs, first-year coach Cody Proctor was worried about how that would impact the play of his players against actual competition.
As it turns out, it only slowed them down for the first game of Tuesday's Ski Valley doubleheader.
Forest Area took the first game 7-4, but J-L bounced back to win the nightcap, 1-0.
"It's really tough because we don't have game experience," Proctor said. "In that first game, we made dumb base running errors. In practice, we're not playing games because it rained, so we're practicing in the gym again, and it's hard for them to get game-time experience and get settled into game speed when we don't have them out there.
"That was clearly evident in the first game."
The Cardinals (1-3, 1-1 SVC) led 4-1 in the first game until they gave up five runs in the third inning.
Mason Kortman, who was celebrating his birthday, pitched five innings and struck out one Warrior. The senior gave up seven hits and five earned runs. Matt Ross closed out the game in relief, fanning two and giving up one hit.
"They (Forest Area) hit the ball well, and everything they hit just was, like, little bloop singles," Proctor said. "They literally just hit the ball. There weren't many errors there either. They just put the bat out there and it was falling."
J-L trailed 1-0 entering the second inning but quickly gained the lead.
Dan Runyan bunted Cody Haase to third base, and then Haase raced home on a passed ball. Then Ross doubled to left center to help Runyan cross home plate.
Jacob Smith's single down the foul line pushed in Ross and Tanner Shimel to round out the Cardinals' scoring.
Smith's bat was key in helping J-L capture the split in the second game.
In the first inning, the senior popped up a sacrifice fly that allowed Jett Ewing to scoot home from second base for the game's lone run.
Ewing, who was the leadoff man, had his team's only hit.
Shimel went the distance on the mound, allowing three hits and two walks and striking out four.
"Tanner pitched lights out and did really, really well," Proctor said. "Everything worked for him. He hit his spots, and his curve ball worked well. He just hit the spots and painted the corners.
"When they did get a hit or put it into play, we played good defense to back him up."
The Cardinals didn't commit any errors in the nightcap and put together a few highlights on defense, including Runyan throwing out a pair of runners from his catcher position.
Despite 2 losses, Cardinals' pitchers Kortman, Shimel dynamite in opener
HILLMAN – Pitching isn't going to be a problem for the young and rebuilding Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team this spring.
The Cardinals (0-2) just need to work on improving their hitting.
Hillman swept the visiting Cardinals 6-0 and 3-0 in a non-conference doubleheader Monday, despite stellar pitching from J-L senior Mason Kortman and sophomore Tanner Shimel.
"I'm really happy with the pitching," J-L coach Cody Proctor said. "I'm pretty confident with the guys I have coming in behind them (on defense).
"Having these guys throw four and five innings and staying strong is important to have this season, especially with the new pitch count rules."
In the first game, Kortman, the Cardinals' first-year ace, pitched five complete innings. He struck out a staggering seven Tigers and gave up only five hits, three walks and six earned runs.
"I had pretty good accuracy and demand," Kortman said. "It was a little wet, and I lost control at times, and sometimes my curve ball didn't work because it slipped out.
"But we played ball with them. We were fundamentally strong and played well. There's a couple of little things we needed to do that would have been crucial on keeping them at a lower score. But we played pretty good defensively.
The Tigers executed a squeeze bunt hit toward Kortman in the first inning that brought in the winning run.
They also added three runs in the second and two in the fifth.
Colby Culhane had the lone hit for the Cardinals, while Kortman, Shimel and Dylan Agee each drew walks in the season opener.
"I would say our No. 1 problem is our bats," Proctor said. "My takeaway from the game is that my young guys played pretty well, and I started three freshmen and two sophomores.
"We didn't strike out a bunch. We put the bat on the ball, but it just wasn't hit hard enough or we'd pull it."
Shimel started the nightcap. He lasted four innings, striking out five and allowing only four hits, three walks and three earned runs.
"I think Tanner threw very well today," Kortman said. "He was very accurate and handled (Hillman's offense) very well.
"It went really well having him and me out there (being a one-two punch) as starters."
Hillman secured the winning run in the first inning of the second game as well, as it relied on a ground ball to bring in the score.
The Tigers scored twice more in the fourth. The umpires suspended the game later in the fifth because of darkness.
J-L freshmen Dan Runyan and Matt Ross each had one hit.
The Cardinals had a pair of errors in the doubleheader.
"I was pretty happy with tonight," Proctor said. "There's some small stuff that we got to work on. Obviously, they're high school kids, and they'll make an error every now and then. We'll work on the mental things we have to fix.
"But I'm pretty happy."
Kortman agreed with his first-year coach.
"We got to work on playing small ball," the senior said. "We can't have missed throws. We can't go down swinging on third strikes or while watching it. You can't do that."
J-L opens Ski Valley play when it hosts Pellston for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Monday, April 17.
New ace: Kortman looks to be Cardinals' horse on the mound this spring
JOHANNESBURG – From Coalton Huff to Logan Huff and Orin Kierczynski, the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team has had a steady run of quality starting pitchers the past half decade.
That won't change either when first-year coach Cody Proctor puts the ball in Mason Kortman's mitt to open the season next week.
Kortman, a fourth-year starter, has helped the Cardinals since he was a freshman, picking up a win over Onaway in his only start that season. Since then, he's been a stable, reliable arm in the back end of former coach Rick Guild's rotation the last two seasons.
Now that senior year is here, it's Kortman's turn to carry the load.
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first (knowing I'd be the guy this season), but I know I can handle it," Kortman said. "I know my teammates can trust me, and they can trust me that I can keep my head while I'm on the mound. I'm comfortable in that position."
Kortman, who will be joined in the rotation by sophomore Tanner Shimel, said he knows the situation: He's no secret in the Ski Valley because teams have faced his pitching the past three seasons.
But that hasn't tempered the goals he has set for himself both on the mound and as a senior leader, nor has the bum left ankle he has battled since suffering a freak injury in gym class a few weeks ago.
My goal is to not allow any runs, but I know that's a hard goal to come by, but I know that my defense will have my back," he said. "I see this season as a chance to help the younger kids and show them what I've learned from Coalton and Logan and everybody in the past, including Coach Guild and the pitching coach I went to."
That pitching coach, of course, was Greg Jones, the area's top professional when it comes to improving prep players' games.
Jones has taught some of the best, including both of last year's Herald Times baseball and softball Player of The Year winners in St. Mary's Nick Torsky and J-L's Bailey Bennett. He even led Gaylord's Little League softball team to a state championship last summer.
Jones trained Kortman his freshman and sophomore seasons, teaching him control and an ability to hone in on his accuracy. He taught Kortman how to limit his wild pitches and play consistently as well.
That training should be a boon for the Cardinals this spring.
"I do expect a lot out of Mason, and Tanner, too," Proctor said. "Mason is a senior, and he's pitched long enough. He was a No. 3, No. 4 pitcher last year, so now it's his time to shine. I expect him to have a good year. Tanner has a lot of composure on the mound, too, but he's not going to overpower you, but he mentally knows what to do. We're going to have a lot of guys pitch to contact this year."
It's also Proctor's time to shine.
The former J-L player and 2006 graduate played under Guild, who retired after 41 seasons leading the Cardinals. Guild finished with 823 career wins, tying him for the fifth-most in MHSAA history with former Brighton Coach Mark Carrow (1973-2006).
Proctor, who will receive help coaching from his father, Mike, has kept the program pretty close to the way Guild used to run things.
"We've worked on fundamentals so far," he said. "We've worked a lot on mechanics and fundamentals, whether it be offensively or defensively. We've worked on a lot of situational stuff and stuff that these young kids haven't seen or baseball situations they don't think about every day. Like, for example, if you got a runner on first, and there's someone at-bat, they don't always think about where to throw the ball if it hits the gap and the runner is going."
Guild left behind a roster with only four former starters, though.
Back are seniors Cody Haase (catcher) and Jacob Smith (first base), while several first-year starters will look to fill in the spots left behind from Guild's last graduating class. That class consisted of Brandon Huff, Logan Huff, Kierczynski, Joel Kussrow, Brendan Prentice, Nathan Fox and a host of other contributors.
Also on the roster this season are seniors Colby Culhane and Joe Hofer, juniors Noah Vermilya, Jett Ewing and Dylan Agee, sophomores Tyler Madej, Grant Koronka, Kevin Gehringer and Allen Morgan and freshmen Austin Carroll, Matt Ross and Dan Runyan.
"I expect us to go into every single game and compete," Proctor continued. "I don't see any reason why we can't compete in any game we play. As a coach, my expectation is to win every game we play, but at the very minimum, I expect we compete in every game."
The Cardinals, which finished 26-8-1 a year ago, open their season when they visit Hillman for a non-conference
JOHANNESBURG – Cody Proctor remembers his favorite memory of playing for the Johannesburg-Lewiston baseball team.
It was his junior year 12 years ago. J-L and Posen were tied 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning. There were two outs, a man was on second and Proctor was up to bat. The pitch came, and he cranked it.
"I remember hitting a walk-off home run and rounding second," Proctor recalled. "Normally, (former J-L coach Rick Guild) would be standing there and just give me a high five and say, 'Good hit.' This time he was jumping up and down. It's something I won't ever forget because Guild was never big on guys when they hit home runs."
No, Guild liked to get his Cardinals on base and strategically move them around the pond – a slow, painful death for a defense to endure, really.
After the Cardinals lost in the Division 4 district tournament last season to – who else? – Posen, which needed an early home run to win, Guild retired after 41 years as the head coach of the program.
He amassed 823 careers wins, tying him for the fifth-most in MHSAA history with former Brighton coach Mark Carrow (1973-2006).
Now it's Proctor, 28, who will replace him. The school board voted to accept the athletic department's recommendation to hire Proctor during a meeting Monday at the high school.
Proctor hopes he can have as memorable of an impact on his new players as Guild had on him while he was in school from 2002-06.
"I played baseball in Joburg, and it was one of my favorite things, playing for Coach Guild," Proctor said. "When he stepped down, I wanted to step in, take his place and continue where he left off and see if I can keep the program where I was.
"I had a conversation with him, and we talked about it. He told me that I should apply for the job or consider applying and that I'd be a good person to do it. Coming from him that meant a lot to me because he's been so successful in baseball."
Proctor, who has been a full-time teacher at J-L for two years and has worked in the school for four, has three years experience coaching in the Lewiston Little League system. That includes one season as the Boys 11-12 coach and two more leading the Boys 13-14 team.
Some of the players from those programs will be freshmen and sophomores on this spring's baseball team. His All-Stars had good success as one of the smaller teams in a district that includes Gaylord, West Branch and Arenac-Iosco-Oscoda.
One of Proctor's biggest coaching achievements came when his 11-12s used a walk-off grand slam to win a district game in West Branch.
That coaching experience, coupled with his time in Guild's program, should help the Cardinals stay competitive in the Ski Valley.
"My goal is to pick up the program where Coach Guild left it," Proctor said. "It has always been successful, and Joburg is always a program that's competitive, competing for league and district titles. I'd like to continue that and make the next step in turning this into a truly elite program. I want to continue where Guild left off and make this a continually successful team year in and year out."
Proctor also has four years experience as the defensive coordinator of the J-L football team.
"He's a hard-working individual, and you can see that when he coaches football with the things he does," athletic director Joe Smokevitch said. "He brings a baseball knowledge to the program. He played for Guild, he's coached in the Little League ranks in the upper ages for awhile and he brings a lot of good things to the program."