JOHNSONBURG – Johnsonburg baseball rallied with a 4-run sixth inning to take a 6-4 victory over Elk County Catholic Monday afternoon at Knothole Area Recreational Park.
The Crusaders had a 4-2 lead entering the home half of the sixth inning, but the Rams sent nine hitters to the plate en route to taking the lead. Mitchell Holmberg led the inning off by being hit by a pitch. He moved to second on a passed ball. After a fly out, Zac Luhr singled up the middle to move Holmberg to third and Quinn Luhr followed with a single of his own to plate Holmberg, pushing the lead to 4-3.
Kyle Sheldon entered as a courtesy runner for Zac Luhr and moved to third on a passed ball. Frank Kocjancic walked to load the bases and after a strikeout, Jesse Wolfe singled home both Sheldon and Quinn Luhr to put the Rams up 5-4. Wolfe finished with four RBI.
"That was really good hitting on Jesse Wolfe's part, he's coming out of his slump," Johnsonburg coach Jeff Peterson said. "He was slumping there for a while. A couple big, clutch hits by him in that game."
Elk County Catholic coach Father Eric Vogt said the Rams took advantage of run-producing opportunities.
"They hit the ball when they had to, with runners on they scored them," Vogt said.
Kocjancic moved to second on Wolfe's single. Cole Peterson followed up, reaching first on an ECC infield error. On the play, Kocjancic hustled from second and slid home to beat the throw and put the Rams ahead 6-4.
"We showed a lot of character as far as not giving up when we were down 3-2," Coach Peterson said. "We could have folded there, I think years ago we would have folded. These kids just keep plugging, they don't quit. They can hit and play the game, they just keep hanging around. We're a pest. We just keep plugging and keep grinding and we like to hang around. We're not a big powerhouse team where we're going to score 20 runs, but we hang around."
Peterson said the players have good baseball instincts on the bases.
"The instinct's there, these kids want to run," Peterson said. "We just have to play it by ear, who's behind the plate, who's doing what and the jumps we get on the passed balls. The kids are just doing an excellent job. I can't complain about one thing right now. They played four games in so many days. They're hanging right there. It's getting to be a fun little team to watch."
"Overall, the defense played well," he added. "We had a couple little flubs here and there that ate us up, there but we hung around."
Zac Luhr came in and closed the deal in the seventh with a perfect inning.
Johnsonburg took advantage of plate discipline in the bottom of the second to break the scoreless tie. After recording two outs, the Rams had three straight walks from Quinn Luhr, Kocjancic and Andrew Nortum to load the bases. Wolfe came through with a single past second to score both Quinn Luhr and Kocjancic and give Johnsonburg a 2-0 lead.
"We can't give up walks," Vogt said. "Walks will hurt you all the time."
Elk County Catholic was stifled on offense early in the game and didn't get a baserunner until the fourth inning.
"We didn't hit until the fifth inning. We're not going to win many games doing that," Vogt said. "They hit the ball hard the first four innings, they just hit it right at them. That's the game of baseball."
Cole Peterson started the game on the mound and threw three perfect innings.
"Can't say enough about the pitching," Coach Peterson said. "Our pitching did a really nice job. Cole looked really good in the beginning, he and Mitchell did a nice job and Zac Luhr come in there and just shined at the end. He threw really nice. He hasn't thrown much, he's been behind the plate a lot, did a great job throwing."
Luke Daghir walked in the fourth inning for Elk County Catholic's first baserunner.
ECC then put a 3-run inning together in the fifth to take the lead. Ben Daghir led off with a single and Jake Cortina followed with an infield hit. Brock McCullough grounded into a fielder's choice at third to take Ben Daghir off the basepaths. After a fly out, Zac Brody launched a 3-run home run into left field to put the Crusaders ahead 3-2, scoring Cortina, McCullough and Brody.
Ricky Pearsall doubled to lead off the sixth inning and after a fly out, Pearsall scored on a misplayed grounder to second off the bat of Luke Daghir.
ECC had four hits for the game, Johnsonburg had five. Coach Peterson said the Crusaders are a tough test.
"They got a really nice team, they got a lot of athletes," Peterson said. "They're going to be tough, they're going to be a team to reckon with. This is just one game. Tomorrow it could be a totally different score and go a whole other way. It's a nice win, we'll take it. It shows we can compete with the better teams. They're one of the best teams in the league and I think we're right up in there a little bit."
Johnsonburg will play at Berwind Park against Elk County Catholic today at 4:15 p.m.
Ricky Pearsall 3-1-1, Eric Wehler 3-0-0, Luke Daghir 2-0-0, Ben Daghir 3-0-1, Jake Cortina 3-1-1, Brock McCullough 3-1-0, Joe McLaughlin 3-0-0, Zac Brody 3-1-1, Kyle Schneider 2-0-0. Totals 25-4-4.
Cole Peterson 3-0-0, Cameron Grumley 3-0-0, Mitchell Holmberg 2-1-0, Joe Holmberg 3-0-0, Zac Luhr 3-0-1, Quinn Luhr 2-2-1, Frank Kocjancic 1-2-0, Andrew Nortum 2-0-0, Jesse Wolfe 3-0-2, Kyle Sheldon 0-1-0. Totals 22-6-4.
Score by quarters R
ECCHS 000 031 0 4
Johnsonburg 020 004 x 6