JOHNSONBURG – A steady drizzle throughout the early innings did not put a damper on the Rams' undefeated trek as Johnsonburg earned an 11-0 5-inning win Wednesday afternoon at Knothole Area Recreational Park against Curwensville.
Johnsonburg sophomore Cole Peterson was on the hill early and combined with junior CJ Herbstritt for a 2-hit shutout against the struggling Golden Tide as the Rams stretched their undefeated mark to 15-0.
The home team's bats went to work early on as Curwensville starting pitcher Boone McGary was ousted after recording only one out in the game.
Peterson started with a single to right field and moved to second base on a fielding error. After catcher Cameron Grumley rolled into a 6-3 groundout which failed to advance the runner, shortstop Mitchell Holmberg worked a free pass to put two aboard.
A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position before third baseman Quinn Luhr stroked a 2-run single to center field to plate Peterson and Holmberg for the early 2-0 advantage. Luhr had a monster day, going 3-for-3 with three RBI, two runs scored, and a walk. Herbstritt was walked and later moved into scoring position on another wild offering.
Second baseman Frank Kocjancic was hit by a pitch to load the bases and first baseman Taylor Feronti then walked to bring in Luhr. Left fielder Kyle Sheldon was next and was promptly struck by a pitch, bringing in Herbstritt for the game's fourth run; after struggling to find the strike zone through the first eight Johnsonburg batters, McGary was pulled in favor of relief pitcher Ricky Magnuson.
The next man on the hill fared little better as designated hitter Devon Zilcoski wore a pitch to bring in Kocjancic and keep the bases loaded. Peterson followed with a grounder to first base that was misplayed, allowing Feronti to score for a 6-0 lead.
Magnuson recovered to get Grumley swinging for the second out of the inning before Holmberg rolled into a 4-3 groundout to strand three runners. Johnsonburg left 10 batters on base in four innings Wednesday.
"I didn't really think we really hit the ball that well but we got a lot of help, plus we left a lot of guys on base," said Johnsonburg assistant varsity baseball coach Jim Holmberg. "We should've scored a lot more runs than that. We did what we had to do to win I guess."
In the end, the Rams only needed one run.
Peterson allowed a 1-out single to Curwensville catcher Kyle Bloom but the baserunner was later thrown out on a stolen base try; Grumley fired a throw to second base as shortstop Holmberg applied the tag for the out. Peterson then got mound opponent McGary to strike out swinging to end the top of the first inning.
Peterson allowed a free pass to Curwensville first baseman Jesse Zarger to open the second inning but got third baseman Jake Stiles to hit a popup back to the mound. Left fielder Kyle Johns followed with a single to center field to put two aboard in the steady rainfall with one out.
A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position but Peterson regrouped to get designated hitter Jason Bloom to go down swinging. With two outs, center fielder Jordan Russell hit a sharp liner that was gloved by Holmberg.
Leadoff singles from Luhr and Herbstritt opened up the bottom of the second inning before a Sheldon infield single brought in Luhr for a 7-0 lead. Sheldon would later steal second base and a walk to Zilcoski loaded the bases. Peterson then rolled into a 1-3 groundout as the Rams again left the bases loaded.
Peterson finished his three innings of work with a 1-2-3 top of the third, striking out Kyle Bloom to keep the shutout rolling.
The Rams got the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the third inning but only got one run across the plate. Grumley singled to center field, Holmberg was issued a free pass and a Luhr single to center juiced the bases. Herbstritt followed with a walk to bring in Grumley as Magnuson was lifted for fellow relief pitcher Curt Bloom.
The new pitcher was able to get Kocjancic to fly out to shallow center field and Russell's throw was on the money to gun down Holmberg at home plate for the double play. Feronti would hit a sharp liner to shortstop Tanner Elensky to end the inning.
There was a new face on the pitcher's mound in the top of the fourth inning as Herbstritt got his first taste of the hill. The junior responded well as he pitched two no-hit innings while giving up two walks and getting two strikeouts.
The Rams got the necessary runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to bring the 10-run rule into effect.
Zilcoski was hit for the second time and Peterson was walked to put two aboard with one out. After Grumley hit a fly out to center, Holmberg hit a sharp grounder to third base that was misplayed, loading the bases. This time, the Rams cashed in as Luhr walked, bringing in Zilcoski for run No. 9; Herbstritt capped off his day at the plate with a 2-run single, scoring Peterson and Holmberg for an 11-0 lead.
Herbstritt then finished his day on the mound in the top of the fifth inning to clinch the team's 15th win. Pinch hitter Todd Murchak hit a ball to center field but was gunned down at second base. Jason Bloom followed with a popup back to the mound for the second out. Herbstritt was taken to a full count on the next two batters before pinch hitters Brad Coudriet and Andy Holt worked two free passes. Herbstritt regrouped, however, to get pinch hitter Alex Olson swinging to end the game.
"I thought [Herbstritt] did pretty good for his first time out, got some strikes and put a couple nice curveballs out there," coach Holmberg said. "We've been trying to get him in there all year but we've never had the chance.
"I thought he did alright and that just gives us another pitcher if we ever need it."
The Rams are scheduled for a 4:15 p.m. home game today against visiting Port Allegany.