By Jay Young
FREWSBURG - The Maple Grove Red Dragons (0-2) had no answer for Frewsburg pitcher Tage Johnson on Wednesday afternoon as the Bears claimed an impressive 3-0 West 1 Division victory in their season home opener.
Frewsburg’s Tage Johnson rips a fifth-inning single in Wednesday’s Division I West baseball game against Maple Grove. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
The senior relinquished just two hits in the shutout, struck out nine, walked one and helped his own cause with a single and a stolen base.
Once again, the Red Dragons were able to rely on the consistent pitching of Collin Stack, but Johnson's heat from the mound was too much for the Maple Grove offense to handle.
Stack ended the night with a pair of strikeouts, seven walks and two earned runs while going 1-for-3 at the plate.
It was a two-run single from sophomore Christian Proctor that broke the stalemate for Frewsburg during the bottom of the fourth inning.
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After the Bears were unable to capitalize on earlier offensive chances, Proctor's bat came alive at an opportune time with the game still deadlocked at 0-0.
Following a pair of runs from the sophomore, Frewsburg was then able to put another run on the board in the fifth thanks to an RBI single from Trevor Spicer.
Even with the opening victory, Frewsburg coach Jay Grann sees plenty of chances for his team to improve at the plate.
"Yeah, I think we had opportunities basically in every inning where we had two runners, and you know we didn't take advantage of it with a key hit there, especially bases loaded (fifth inning), nobody out and only getting one," Grann said. "But Christian Proctor out of our nine spot gets a base hit with two RBIs there. Anytime we get production (from the bottom of the order) we'll take it.''
While the Bears squandered some chances on offense, the one thing that Grann can be happy about is Johnson's stuff from the mound.
The senior started out the day with a pair of strikeouts to open the first inning, courtesy of some high-heat. Johnson was never seriously tested throughout the day.
"Anytime you get that (kind of pitching) in an opener ,we'll take it, for sure,'' Grann said. ''Tage put us on his back today.''.
Stack was also impressive on the mound as well as at the plate, but suffered from a lack of run support and costly walks.
The senior was able to get out of a rough third inning thanks to a strikeout with the bases loaded, but started off the fourth with another walk that paved the way for Frewsburg's offensive push.
On offense, Stack was only one of two Red Dragons to have any success against Johnson, but both of his hits came without runners in scoring position.
Coming in to relieve the senior on the mound was Corey Wefing in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs.
Despite entering the game in a rough spot, Wefing pitched solidly, allowing only one earned run, and went on to end the game with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the sixth.
It looked like Maple Grove was about to start its comeback in the final inning after Stack reached on an error and Nolan Knipe struck a deep double into center field, but Johnson was up to the challenge.
With only one out and men in scoring position, Johnson fired home two more strikeouts to end the game and pick up the Bears' first win.
"For us, I think we've got to see more live pitching, more inter-squad stuff. Again, Myrtle Beach is coming up so we'll see that repetitive pitching every day. I think that will help us a lot," Red Dragons coach Jordan Rambacher said.
At the end of seven innings Spicer finished with a pair of singles and an RBI while Proctor managed two singles and two RBIs. Also finding their way on base was Bryce Raymond and Matt Hair with one hit each.
The Bears are slated to take on Silver Creek on the road at 4:30 p.m. today while Maple Grove will not play again until Monday when it takes on Immaculate Heart Central of Watertown.