JOHNSONBURG – The Rams continued their pitching prowess Thursday with an effective troika on the hill to halt visiting Brockway, 7-0.
Starting pitcher Cole Peterson was complemented in relief by Mitchell Holmberg and Zac Luhr en route to the three-hit shutout.
Freshman Cameron Grumley had a career-day as he went 2-for-2, crossed the plate four times, brought in another two runs and nailed a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to put an exclamation point on the 7-0 win.
"That was awesome for Cameron [Grumley], a freshman, hitting his first home run up there and all these kids have the power, and we take it as it goes," Johnsonburg head baseball coach Jeff Peterson said following his team's seventh win of the season. "We take them any way we can get them and that's a good win against a caliber team."
The home team came out swinging early and after a walk to Grumley and an infield single by Mitchell Holmberg with one out in the bottom of the first inning, Joe Holmberg followed up with an RBI single to plate Grumley; Zac Luhr followed with a sacrifice bunt to bring in Mitchell Holmberg from third base for the early 2-0 lead.
The Rams picked up another run in the bottom of the third inning. After Grumley walked on a full count, Mitchell Holmberg reached first on an error at second base. Joe Holmberg followed with a single to score Grumley for the 3-0 lead.
But one run was all Cole Peterson needed as he threw three hitless innings to start the game. His only miscues were hitting his mound opponent, Houston Fairman, with one out in the top of the first inning, a leadoff walk in the top of the second inning (the batter was later caught trying to steal second base) and a two-out walk to Chris Calliari in the top of the third inning (Calliari also was caught stealing).
"I liked our pitching, it was good again [Thursday], very strong performances from all three of them, and it's been a pretty good combination," coach Peterson said. "They all throw strikes and with only two walks, that's our game.
"The other team puts the ball in play and our defense takes care of it, and I really like our defense. We're quick and we make things happen."
Cole Peterson was lifted in three innings in favor of Mitchell Holmberg, who immediately yielded a double to Fairman that fell just inside the line in left field. But the Rams' potent defense promptly took over as Cole Peterson, now at shortstop, caught a bullet liner off Michael Vervoort and quickly gunned down Fairman, who couldn't make it back to second base in time.
Mitchell Holmberg found similar trouble in the top of the fifth inning after a single by Zach Freemer to shallow center field and a fielding error by Joe Holmberg after Cole Peterson gloved a sharp grounder from Derek Buganza. With two runners on, Phil Esposito hit a groundout to second base to move the runners into scoring position. The runners were stranded, however, as Mitchell Holmberg caught Troy Snell swinging for the third out.
The Rams added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning as Quinn Luhr and Frank Kocjancic hit back-to-back two-out singles to plate Grumley and Joe Holmberg for a 5-0 lead.
Despite another jam to open up the top of the sixth inning, Mitchell Holmberg again was able to escape unscathed. After a fielding error by Frank Kocjancic put Calliari aboard, Fairman smacked his second double of the game, this time to left-center field to put two runners in scoring position. Mitchell Holmberg bent but did not break as he struck out the next three batters to escape with the shutout intact.
Grumley added his two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning and Zac Luhr cleaned up the show with a perfect seventh inning to secure the 7-0 win.
"Houston [Fairman] is a tough pitcher, throws a nice curve that keeps you off-guard but we were able to put the ball in play," coach Peterson said. "Brockway had a few flubs on defense that cost them a couple runs and we took advantage of that.
"I still think [Brockway] is one of the tougher teams in the league and it's good to be right there with these teams. We're showing it and we're hanging around."
While the top of coach Peterson's lineup accounted for seven of the team's nine hits and all seven runs, the bottom of the order hit just 2-for-9.
"Jesse [Wolfe] is just starting to come around hitting for us at No. 9 and we have a No. 8 spot where we're been rotating three guys in there to try to see who can do what," coach Peterson said. "One day I'll get a home run and a hit off the fence, then the next day I'll get three strikeouts so it's an iffy position right now.
"Each player has their own different strength there but it just depends on who's hot and who can jump through and make something happen."
But despite a lack of hitting from the bottom of the order at times, coach Peterson said his defense is as strong as ever and complements his pitching staff.
"The pitching goes hand-in-hand with the defense and while we've always been shaky with the defense, I'm very confident in them now because they've been making all the plays," coach Peterson said. "I like how the pitching scheme is going and I've always liked it that way. I still have Andrew Nortum and Quinn Luhr to throw later in the season to see what we can handle and what we can do. We're going to stick to how we're pitching now because of the games that are coming and the weather because with five games in a week, you can't afford to blow one guy away and then be limited.
"If Cole [Peterson] goes in there and starts getting wiped out in the first and second innings and somebody else is shutting it down out there, he'll ride it longer than ever and that's the way we were going to go [Thursday]. Had Mitchell [Holmberg] got in some trouble, I would've brought Cole [Peterson] back in to finish it but then he would've been done for a couple days."
With nine games in and a 7-2 record with one of the two losses being contested, coach Peterson said his team's caliber of play is on target with his aspirations.
"We're where we thought we would be at this point in the season," coach Peterson said. "Some of those games could've gone either way-- we had a tough one against Kane there for a while and Smethport came down to the wire but we're showing a lot of character by hanging in those tough games.
"I think we're capable of where we're at, I thought we'd be able to do this well, I feel we're going to be even stronger next year since we have such a young team of freshmen and sophomores. They're going to mature even more because of all the playing time that they're getting now.
"Right now I'm happy with what we have and I felt that we could be here. I feel that we can hang around and as I said before, we're a pest, we can hang around and play defense, and we're able to hit that ball."