Coyotes split with Holton

REED CITY — Josh Justin and Codie Strach like the direction the Reed City baseball team is taking after the early stages of the season.

The Coyotes entered the week at 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the Central State Activities Association (CSAA).

Strach is in his third year on varsity as a junior. Earlier this season against Ludington, he belted a grand slam home run vs. Holton.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” he said. “Mostly it’s been my hitting.”

He’s hoping to bat in the high .300s this season and worked a lot on his hitting during the offseason.

Strach, a junior, was especially effective against Holton in a home victory last week. He said it was the best of the three performances he’s had so far this season.

“It was my fastball,” he said. “It was hitting the right spots and it had a lot of velocity.”

Strach is in his second varsity season and saw extensive action a year ago.

“I’ve improved a lot, my velocity is up,” he said. “I’m working on placing my pitches.”

If he’s not pitching, he plays first base. He’s been among the top Reed City pitchers so far.

“I think we have a good shot at winning districts and winning some games,” he said. “I think we’ll do pretty good in the league.”

Justin, a senior shortstop, had a home run against Holton last week, his first of the season.

“As long as we keep hitting the ball, we’re capable of winning a lot of games,” Justin said.

As the season progresses and he and his teammates see more live hitting, Justin is confident he can be effective at the plate.

Reed City is 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the league. The Coyotes play home against Morley Stanwood Tuesday.

Meanwhile, it was a pitcher’s day for Holton’s Laketon Belinger and the left-hander Strach last Thursday night.

Belinger hurled the Red Devils to a 3-1 victory in the first game of a double-header in Central State Activities Association action while Strach was sharp in a 5-2 nightcap triumph.

Strach allowed five hits and no walks while fanning 11 batters in the second game. The Coyotes had four homers in the game including three in a row in the top of the first inning by Evan Stieg, Strach and Justin. Mike Schneidt had a solo homer in the fourth inning while the other run scored on a Strach RBI single in the fifth.

“Codie was pretty commanding on the mound,” Reed City coach Shankel said. “He had control and most of the time he got the leadoff hitter. That helps out. The only time he got into trouble was when he didn’t.”

Strach said he had command of his fastball.

“I was hitting the spots and it had a lot of velocity on it,” he said.

Strach had three hits while Stieg had two and Justin added one.

The new Reed City field was not playable because of conditions caused by the weather, and the game was played at the old field, which features shorter fences.

Reed City coach Scott Shankel acknowledged the shorter fences may have been a factor in some of the RC home runs.

“But I don’t know, a home run’s a home run, right?” Shankel smiled. “The distance to the fence was the same for them as it was for us.”

In the first game, Stieg took the loss despite a strong outing with 10 strikeouts, allowing three walks and six hits. Strach had an RBI single. Trevor Mund had the other Reed City hit.

“Evan threw a good game, we just didn’t give him any run support,” said Reed City coach Scott Shankel. “We didn’t hit the ball. Their pitcher threw a real good game. He was commanding on the mound.”

Of the 21 Coyote batters that were retired, Belinger, a junior, fanned 16 and also threw out two that bounced out to the mound. He’s 3-1.

“I brought him up last year as a sophomore and he had five wins,” said Holton coach Jim Giddings. “He gets in a little trouble because he thinks he can blow it by everybody. He’s getting better.”

“He was pretty good,” Justin said. “He obviously had a lot of strikeouts.”