Eight Johnny Mac players nominated for baseball association All-Star game

By Stephen Glover

Things couldn’t be sweeter for the Johnny Mac Thunder baseball team.

Johnny Mac (36-6) recently captured the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association’s championship with an impressive mark of 19-2 in league play. The Thunder also had eight players nominated for the SLABA All-Star game on Aug. 8 at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon.

Starting for the SLABA South All-Stars will be Johnny Mac third baseman Mike Loechel, left fielder Justin Fujarski and designated hitter Eric Tripp.

Loechel is batting .400 with five home runs and 37 runs batting in.

“Mike has been very steady for us at the plate,” head coach Jim Muskopf told the Call. “He’s really come through in the clutch for us and has vastly improved in the infield.”

Fujarski has been a terror on the base paths this season with 21 stolen bases along with a .343 batting average with three home runs and 32 RBI.

“He’s often our leadoff hitter,” Muskopf said. “Justin’s on base a lot and I think that his best attribute is that he gets to fly balls and line drives quickly.”

Tripp currently is the league’s second best hitter with a batting average of .486 with five home runs and 43 RBI.

“Eric’s been one of our top players all season,” Muskopf said. “He’s a clutch hitter who’s not easy for anyone to pitch around. When people are on base, he drives them in.”

Also making the South All-Stars from Johnny Mac is the pitching trio of Andy Marks, Tom Causino and Matt Ikemeier.

At 8-1 with an impressive 1.49 earned-run average, Andy Marks has been stellar with 73 strikeouts in just 52 innings pitched.

“Andy’s really developing as a left-handed pitcher,” Muskopf explained. “He really pays attention and understands the hitters and uses that to get them out.”

Causino also has been just as impressive as his left-handed teammate with a 6-0 record and a 2.52 earned-run average.

Causino has 17 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched.

“The thing about Tom is that he’s about to get hitters hit a lot of ground balls and pop-up hits,” Muskopf said. “He’s an intelligent pitcher who places his pitches well.”

Rounding out the Thunder’s pitching trio is Matt Ikemeier, who’s currently 4-0 with a 1.94 earned-run average. He has 34 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched.

“Matt’s a very confident pitcher,” Muskopf said.

“He’s an intelligent pitcher that throws a very wicked curve ball and change up.”

The Thunder also will have two players serving as reserves for the South All-Stars as Justin Rahn will play as the team’s backup catcher and Jared Mueller will serve as the backup center fielder. Rahn currently is batting .394 with 29 RBI, while Mueller is carrying a .351 average with 18 RBI.

Throughout the week, the Thunder is playing in the Barrett-Fletcher World Series in Tampa, Fla.

The tournament features teams throughout the country with the Thunder representing the state of Missouri. Johnny Mac will play four games in pool play with the teams that have the best records in the round robin format advancing to the next round.

“I think that our attention in pool play will be that we’ll try to grab our first two games, which should advance us to the double elimination round,” Muskopf said. “I think that two or three wins would guarantee us a spot in double elimination.”

The championship game of the Barrett-Fletcher World Series is scheduled to be played Friday, July 23, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., which is home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The game is slated for a 1 p.m. start.