JOHNSONBURG – Solid pitching and extra bases were the name of the game Thursday as the Johnsonburg Rams took a 3-2 win over visiting DuBois Central Catholic to extend their opening run to 8-0 on the season.
Sophomore starting pitcher Cole Peterson went the distance for the Rams, scattering two runs on five hits for a complete game victory. Peterson struck out four in the victory and issued only one free pass, an intentional walk in the third inning.
"Cole [Peterson] threw very well and he has a well-deserved rest here coming up," said Johnsonburg head baseball coach Cole Peterson following the win. "We don't play until Wednesday and I don't even think I'll use him then or even Friday with Kane and Otto-Eldred. He has thrown a lot for us earlier this year."
The Rams gave their starting pitcher the lead right off the bat in the first inning. After an unassisted groundout to first and a flyout to right, DCC starting pitcher Alex Allender appeared to be poised to get out of the opening inning unscathed.
A double down the left field line from Johnsonburg shortstop Mitchell Holmberg changed all that. With one on and one out, Johnsonburg third baseman Quinn Luhr tapped a single to plate Holmberg for the 1-0 lead.
A balk from Allender would move Luhr to second, a huge miscue as Johnsonburg center field C.J. Herbstritt followed up with a double of his own to bring in Luhr for an early 2-0 lead. DCC second baseman Pat Sayers misplayed the throw in as Herbstritt advanced to third on the play. Johnsonburg third baseman Frank Kocjancic would flyout to center to end the inning.
After retiring the first seven batters of the game, Peterson found some trouble in the top of the third inning, the first on a single to center field off a 2-1 pitch to DCC right fielder Anthony Pyne and another to DCC left fielder Ayden Hanes. With two aboard, Allender tried to help himself but struck a lineout to second base; a low throw from Kocjancic rolled in the dirt and into foul territory, allowing Pyne to advance to third on the mishandle.
Sayers kept the inning going with a double to bring in Pyne to cut the lead in half at 2-1. After Peterson issued an intentional walk to DCC first baseman Mark Walker, the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, the sophomore pitcher got DCC third baseman Cody Gulvas to flyout to the shortstop to end the inning.
Luhr walked in the bottom of the third inning but was left on base and Johnsonburg right fielder Kyle Sheldon reached on an infield single, a slow roller in the dirt in the bottom of the fourth inning but was unable to come around to score.
Peterson, meanwhile, was hard at work on the mound, retiring 11 straight batters between the last out of the top of the third inning and the last out of the top of the sixth inning.
Luhr caught a hard-hit liner to third base in the top of the fourth inning that probably prevented an extra base hit and Sheldon made a nice catch near the warning track in right field for the last out in the top of the fifth inning.
"We had quite a few terrific plays, [Luhr] caught a hard liner at third like it was an everyday catch like nothing," coach Peterson said. "Kyle Sheldon had a nice play out there to catch a long ball and C.J. [Herbstritt] had a big catch out there in center. [DCC] hit the ball pretty good."
Holmberg also knocked down a 6-3 groundout after the ball took an awkward bounce upward for the first out of the top of the sixth inning.
In a tight 2-1 contest, the Rams picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning, a run that would end up being the difference in the game.
Herbstritt stroked his second double of the game to lead off and was pulled for pinch runner Dylan DeLong. He didn't spend much time on the basepaths as Kocjancic came through with a double of his own to bring in DeLong for a 3-1 advantage.
"Mitchell [Holmberg] had some great hits and Frank [Kocjancic] had an awesome hit there at the end, and I've been waiting for him to hit the ball like that," coach Peterson said. "That's his stroke and he is deadly, and he can hit it like that all the time. He's a powerful player.
"We had everybody contributing, it wasn't a one-man show there, everybody had a hand in it to get it done."
A 4-3 groundout from Johnsonburg first baseman Taylor Feronti moved Kocjancic to third but Sheldon followed with a fielder's choice groundout as Kocjancic was gunned down at home plate.
Johnsonburg left fielder Devon Zilcoski struck out swinging to end the inning.
Looking to preserve the victory, DCC made things interesting in the top of the seventh inning with a leadoff double to straightaway center field from third baseman Ben Miknis on a 3-2 offering after several foul balls. A flyout to right field from DCC center fielder Phil Myers put one out on the board before DCC shortstop Dom Goldbach swiped a pitch just inside the right field line for a standup double to plate Miknis.
With the lead down to one run again, Peterson regrouped to get Pyne to flyout to right field before catching Hanes staring at strike three to end the game.
"I think we had to throw more breaking stuff, we weren't getting some calls there so we went with more of the breaking stuff," coach Peterson said. "Our location was good and [Peterson] threw really good."
With the win, the Rams move to 8-0 on the season.
"I'll definitely take it and we're always knocking at the door there. These games are nice to have and it's nice to be undefeated but anybody can get beat any day," coach Peterson said. "These games are nice for seeding but when it comes down to it at the end of the season, you have to win the ones that count-- doesn't matter if you're 18-0, 20-0-- you have to win those games at the end.
"We're taking it one game at a time but we're not getting caught up in being 8-0."