Rams strike down Brockway, earn 4-0 start

JOHNSONBURG – After Cole Peterson's 2-hit shutout Monday complete with 14 strikeouts, the Johnsonburg Rams avoided a letdown Wednesday as Mitchell Holmberg and Quinn Luhr combined to 3-hit visiting Brockway in a 12-2 6-inning game."It was a good game for pitching and they both threw really well," said Johnsonburg head varsity baseball coach Jeff Peterson. "We threw a lot of strikes and that's what keeps us in the game because our defense is strong, I really like our defense."The Rams didn't do too bad at the plate either, scoring runs in five of six innings to take a 10-run rule win over the Rovers.Johnsonburg's biggest inning came right off the bat in the bottom of the first as the Rams sent nine batters to the plate.Peterson and Cameron Grumley walked to start the inning and progressed around the basepaths to get into scoring position.Holmberg laid down a bunt to bring in Peterson and beat out the throw at first base for an infield single. Luhr put down a sacrifice bunt to bring in Grumley and after a flyout to shortstop by Taylor Feronti, Holmberg sprinted home on a wild pitch for an early 3-0 lead.After Frank Kocjancic reached on an error at second base, Kyle Sheldon was hit by Brockway starting pitcher Damon Matson to put two aboard with two outs. Devon Zilcoski stroked a single on the hit-and-run call and Kocjancic reached home to cap a 4-run inning. Dylan DeLong tapped a flyout to left field to end the inning."We've been swinging the bat aggressively and we got one hit out of the bottom three, and they're starting to get on the ball," coach Peterson said.A 1-out single from Darren Olivio got the ball rolling for the Rovers and an error at second base on a double-play try put Casey Wolfe aboard as well. A sacrifice bunt from Eric Chittester moved the runners into scoring position before leadoff hitter Christopher Calliari stroked a 2-run single to plate Olivio and Wolfe; Calliari was called out at second base as he attempted to advance after a throw to home plate."That's what happens usually when you give a team an opportunity, they're going to cash in," coach Peterson said.The Rams were able to shut down the Rovers for the rest of the game while building their lead.Johnsonburg got both runs back in the home half of the second inning thanks to singles from Peterson and Holmberg. With two on and one out, Luhr reached safely after an error at second base on a popup. Peterson would score on the play as Holmberg was out at second.After Luhr advanced to second base on a balk, Feronti connected with a single to plate Luhr for a 6-2 lead before Kocjancic hit a flyout to left to end the inning.Holmberg enjoyed a short 1-2-3 inning before the Rams added three more runs in the bottom of the third.After a free pass to Sheldon, Zilcoski was hit by a pitch to put two aboard with no outs. After a double steal to put the runners in scoring position, DeLong reached on an error at first base and Sheldon came in to score; Zilcoski was gunned down at home on the same play.With a 7-2 lead, Peterson cracked the Rams' only extra-base hit of the game, a 1-out double to bring in DeLong. Peterson would steal third base before Grumley hit a flyout to second base. With two outs, Holmberg helped his cause with a single to left field to plate Peterson for a 9-2 lead, prompting a pitching change.With starting first baseman Evan Hatfield relieving Matson, Luhr stroked a single to reach safely but Holmberg was called out at home to end the third inning.Holmberg got into some trouble in the fourth inning as he walked the leadoff hitter. With one aboard, Holmberg caught Raymond Serafini looking at strike three for the first out before issuing a free pass to Olivio. With two on, Holmberg got Wolfe to popup to center field before walking Chittester to load the bases.Despite the threat, Calliari couldn't take advantage of the opportunity and struck out looking to end the inning."We buckled down and we played some very good defense, and I like the attitudes of our players right now," coach Peterson said.The Rams put another two runs across in the home half of the fourth inning. After Feronti reached on an error at third base and Kocjancic tapped a single, Sheldon hit a flyout to center field before Zilcoski was hit by a pitch for the second time to load the bases. Luke Shreffler would strike out to put two outs on the board before Peterson beat out an infield single to bring in Feronti and Kocjancic.Peterson was 3-for-3 on the day with three runs, three RBI, three stolen bases, a double, and one walk.Luhr relieved Holmberg in the fifth inning and set down the batters 1-2-3; Hatfield would return the favor in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Rams retained their 11-2 lead.Luhr allowed a leadoff walk to Brett Carr to start the sixth inning but then caught Serafini, Olivio and Wolfe all looking at strike three to complete his two hitless innings of work.Needing one more run to win by the 10-run rule, Kocjancic was issued a free pass to get aboard. He would later steal second base before Sheldon struck out for the first out. A 4-3 groundout from Zilcoski moved Kocjancic to third base and brought Shreffler to the plate.Wolfe, in the catcher's position, dropped a Hatfield offering as Kocjancic crept too far off third base. Wolfe tried to gun down the runner but the throw was too long, bounced in the dirt and rolled into the outfield as Kocjancic trotted home uncontested for the decisive run.Coach Peterson was thrilled with his team's pitching performance this week as three pitchers combined to give up two runs on five hits in 13 innings of work. He was also happy with his team's performance on the basepaths; in Wednesday's game, the Rams were a perfect 11-for-11 stealing bases."We stayed aggressive and that comes from seeing some things out on the field. We wanted to stay aggressive on the bags [Wednesday] and we did that," coach Peterson said. "We're going to get our leads, read the pitcher and then get our steals when we can."I'm happy as hell starting out 4-0 going into a little Easter break here, a nice Wednesday to Wednesday break where we'll recoup and get back to our regular pitching rotation, and we'll be good to go."Johnsonburg is scheduled to play at Ridgway (2-2) next Wednesday for a 4 p.m. game.