New ace: Kortman looks to be Cardinals' horse on the mound this spring
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."