Johnny Mac Thunder varsity team continues to roar with 27-3 record

By Stephen Glover

This past weekend was yet another outstanding one for the Johnny Mac Thunder varsity baseball team.

Johnny Mac (27-3, 10-1 St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association Varsity) hammered out a record of 4-0 to win the first Johnny Mac Thunder Firecracker Tournament in Fulton. The tournament will be an annual event.

“The tournament obviously went very well for us,” Johnny Mac head coach Jim Muskopf told the Call. “We faced some very good pitching and got four complete games from our pitchers.”

The Thunder opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Trojans as starting pitcher Aaron Cox gave up one run on five hits. Cox retired six via strikeout as he upped his record to a flawless 4-0 this season.

“The only time he had consecutive hits against him was in the sixth inning,” Muskopf said. “Aaron had an outstanding performance.”

Johnny Mac catcher Tyler Aholt drove in outfielder Justin Fujarski, while first baseman Steve Braun singled in shortstop Ryan Gray for the team’s two runs.

“Tyler is our No. 1 catcher on a team with three good catchers,” Muskopf said. “Steve’s been very tough defensively and has just four errors in 30 ball games.”

In its second game of the tournament against the Hillsboro Barnstormers, Johnny Mac walked away with a hard-fought 2-1 win.

“It was a well-played ball game,” Muskopf said. “We kept everything together despite us not hitting well.”

Starting pitcher Mike Ikemeyer gave up one run on three hits as he struck out a whopping 15 Hillsboro batters.

“Mike had a heck of a ball game,” Muskopf said. “He pitched fantastic for this tournament.”

Johnny Mac scored both of its runs in the second inning as first baseman Tom Causino led off the inning with a single. Fujarski drew the walk, while center fielder Jared Mueller drove in both runs with a double.

“Jared doubled in both runs,” Muskopf said. “He’s probably one of the best center fielders in the St. Louis area. He’s come up with some key hits for us and contributes in a lot of aspects for us.”

Game three of the tournament saw Johnny Mac battle the Springfield (Ill.) Flames to a 3-2 victory in eight innings as Casino went the full eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two strikeouts.

“Tom had excellent control of his change-up and curve,” Muskopf said. “He kept the hitters off balance and was very focused compared to his last start.”

Left fielder Mark Kuelker grounded to second base in the third inning, driving in third baseman Mike Loechel. Outfielder Jake Morgan scored in the sixth inning as Eric Tripp reached first base on an error by the Flames.

Pinch hitter Mike Ikemeyer singled in second baseman Ricky Wiese in the eighth for the game-winning run.

“It was another game where we got good timely hitting,” Muskopf said. “We got excellent pitching and good hitting.”

Johnny Mac finished the tournament with a 7-1 win over the Southwest Stars as the Thunder’s starting pitcher Andy Marks gave up one run on five hits with eight strikeouts.

“Andy had a loss earlier in the season and he’s won three consecutive games,” Muskopf said. “His last three performances have been outstanding.”

This weekend Johnny Mac travels to Quincy, Ill., for the Quincy Invitational at Quincy Senior High School.

“Quincy is one of the better teams in the state of Illinois,” Muskopf said. “We’re having a pretty good season and it will be a good challenge for us.”

The first round of the tourney in Quincy is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. today — July 8.