JOHNSONBURG – For Johnsonburg head baseball coach Jeff Peterson, inconsistency was the difference between his squad being a good team rather than a great team.
“Inconsistency was our problem last year with the older kids,” coach Peterson said. “My older group was the group that I needed to rely on and I didn’t get a whole lot out of them except for maybe the pitching department a little bit.
“Other than that, I was pretty satisfied coming away at .500 last year because I really wasn’t expecting to do that well.”
Coming into the 2011 season, coach Peterson said he has higher expectations based on the prowess of his younger players.
“I thought the younger guys hit real well last season, especially in the middle of the order and all the freshmen, and Joe Holmberg hit well as a junior last year,” coach Peterson said. “It was real inconsistent everywhere else. We had some seniors who were off and on, just never consistent.
“The younger hitters were pretty consistent and I was pretty satisfied, and that’s what I’m looking forward to this year here.”
Eyeing the various positions this season, coach Peterson has Quinn Luhr at third base; Cole Peterson at shortstop and pitcher; Mitchell Holmberg at shortstop and pitcher; Frank Kocjancic at second base; Joe Holmberg at first base; Zac Luhr as catcher; Jesse Wolfe in left field; Cameron Grumley at centerfield; and Kyle Sheldon out in right field.
“[Sheldon] is a little bit inexperienced this year as a sophomore but we’re looking for a little bit out of him,” coach Peterson said. “Zac Luhr hasn’t seen a whole lot of playing time the last few years except for his pitching and I’m hoping to get his stick going a little bit, and get some catching out of him so I can leave Cameron Grumley in centerfield.”
While the lineup is young, coach Peterson indicated that their potential is unlimited and he is optimistic going into the season.
“It’s a real good team to work with, they all want to be there and they want to get better, it’s just a very good group to work with,” coach Peterson said. “We’re a young team all the way across the board, Mitchell Holmberg is only a sophomore but he’ll be pitching, Cole Peterson is only a freshman but he’ll be in there pitching too.
“Quinn Luhr is a sophomore who will see some pitching time also and Zac Luhr along with Andrew Nortum would really be my only two senior pitchers and I really don’t know what to look for out of those two yet, that’s still up in the air as the season goes on.”
Looking around the district this season, coach Peterson said he thinks the whole area is competitive but the loudest noise has come from Elk County Catholic, Curwensville and Brockway.
“Nobody else is really being considered but I think Ridgway will be right there in the fight because they have a lot of numbers this year, a nice team with Jesse Reynolds and them, and nobody mentions us either, and I like it that way,” coach Peterson said. “We’ll just sneak up and nobody will know what hit them when we come up.
“We’ll be a test, one of those teams that will be right there and hang around.”
Coach Peterson hopes to counter opposing teams’ pitching with a potential lineup that will include Cole Peterson leading off followed by Wolfe, Mitchell Holmberg, Joe Holmberg, Grumley, Quinn Luhr, Kocjancic, Zac Luhr and Sheldon.
While coach Peterson said the hitting was streaky last year with his seniors, fielding also was an issue.
“Last year with fielding, it was just all over the place with the outfield and it was so-so in the infield, not that bad but with what we lost to graduation and what we picked up [this season], we’re in better shape,” coach Peterson said. “I think we have some better players coming up and I think our defense will be phenomenal-- we’re looking great and I think it’ll be our strong point, the middle infield will be slick and they’re good, quick hands, good with the ball and I look to roll some double plays this year.
“The defense has been shaky the last couple of years because you always had a couple of weak spots, and as far as the outfield, everywhere and all the way around the horn, is solid. My concern right now is catching to see how Zac Luhr makes out. Hopefully he shines in there for his first couple games because if not Cameron Grumley will go back behind the plate, and he does an excellent job back there.”
Joe Holmberg makes the switch to first base this year after catching as a junior last season.
“With Joe Holmberg, we need good size over at first base with a good glove and some athleticism, I know he’ll cover a lot of ground and catch some balls with that height,” coach Peterson said. “I may throw him in there to catch every now and again if we’re in a jam.”
Despite a .500 mark last season, coach Peterson said he anticipates improvement this season and hopes to be in the midst of the playoff conversation as the weather warms up.
“I think we’ll be in there and I like it when not a lot of people are talking about us because I just want to get out on the field and play and show people what we can do,” coach Peterson said. “We’re really young and people are looking at as that way but while we do have young players, they're mature in a baseball sense; they’re young at age but quite advanced in a baseball sense.”