Sweep of rival buoys RC baseball into tough week

REED CITY — It’s a big week for Reed City’s baseball team which plays arch-rival Pine River at home on Thursday and returns to Central State Activities Association action at Holton on Friday.

The Coyotes, who played at home against Hesperia in league action on Tuesday, will be at Morley Stanwood next Tuesday.

“It’s getting that time of year where we play three times a week the next few weeks, then we get a break … we go all the way to districts where we will play three to four games a week,” Reed City coach Scott Shankel said.

The Coyotes hope to do well against Pine River, but Shankel noted, the Bucks are a non-league foe.

“Obviously the conference games are important,” Shankel said. “I know we have a rivalry with Pine River. It’s not conference … we’ll play to win, don’t get me wrong. But I’m going to save my better pitchers for conference games.”

Reed City is 4-2 and 2-0 in the conference.

The Coyotes swept Big Rapids 14-5 and 4-3 in five innings at BR in league play Friday.

“I like where we’re at,” Shankel said. “You can’t complain taking two games from Big Rapids this early in the year. We’re hitting the ball. There are things we have to work on in the field. I like it better than being 1-1 or 0-2 in the conference.”

Shankel was pleased with how his team performed, particularly at the plate, after dropping a pair of games to Ludington on Tuesday (April 10).

The Coyotes got four hits from Ricky Droke, including a double and three RBI in the first game at BR, while Dylan Kichak added three hits and three RBI. Eric Grannis added two hits, while Codie Strach added two hits and three RBI, including a home run.

Strach also was effective on the mound, going all seven innings in game one, striking out 12 batters while walking three.

“We got the bugs out a little after spring break,” Shankel said, referring to Tuesday’s doubleheader against Ludington. “They got their butts chewed a little after that, which brought them back down to earth a little.

“The first game we hit the ball really well,” he added. “We got guys into scoring position and then got runs. The second game we left a lot of guys on base, but we played well defensively and got outs when we needed them.”

Shankel said Strach’s performance on the mound and at the plate was big for his team on Friday and will be a big part of what the Coyotes do this season.

“We have big expectations for (Strach),” he said. “On the mound he’s looking really good right now. Hitting, he has to stay patient and see pitches, which he can — he’s got a bat.”

Reed City’s Glenn Ryder had a hit and what turned out to be the game-winning RBI in the top of the fifth of the second game. Grannis had a hit and two RBI while Kichak added a hit and an RBI.

Ryan Willis picked up the win for the Coyotes in the second game, giving up two runs and three hits while striking out four in 4.1 innings before Strach collected the final two outs to preserve the win.

Shankel said he was happy with picking up a pair of conference wins early in the schedule.

“With the atmosphere and knowing what this means in the conference, we were up for it,” he said. “We’re going to be strong at the plate, and we’ve worked on that quite a bit. We’ve got a lot of kids returning in the field, so we should be pretty solid there, too.”

Pioneer sports editor Martin Slagter also contributed to this story.