Coach sees progress

Crossroads baseball makes big gains in short time

BIG RAPIDS — The amount of progress the Crossroads Charter Academy baseball team has made in one month has been nothing short of amazing to Dylan Balsitis.

The junior’s eyes light up when discussing how far the team has come, even though the Cougars dropped a doubleheader Monday to Mason County Eastern. The Cardinals won the first game 12-0 and then completed the sweep with a 13-1 victory in the nightcap.

IN THERE: Mason County Eastern's Cody Keilman (5) slides in ahead of the ball and the tag of Crossroads' Joey Weller on Monday. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

“It has been amazing how far we have gone so far,” Balsitis said. “Pitching, catching, hitting, fielding, we have come a long ways from our first game.”

The progress has been noticed by coach Jeff Hoyt.

When the two teams met less than a month ago, Mason County Eastern won by the scores of 24-1 and 23-3.

Fast forward to Monday and Crossroads has made significant strides.

“Even though the scores might not show it, this was our best pitching and defensive doubleheader all year,” Hoyt said. “The pitchers threw strikes, they just hit the ball.”

That the Cougars have improved defensively is no mistake, Hoyt said.

The first-year coach has spent most of the past week working on fielding ground balls and pitchers throwing strikes.

“We had to make a decision on where we are going to get better first and we picked defense,” Hoyt said. “We’ve spent a lot of time in practice to get the guys to the point where they are not afraid of the ball and confident making plays.”

Crossroads Charter Academy made just one error in the first game as Mason County Eastern was able to score the majority of the runs through hitting the baseball.

The Cougars managed two hits in the contest, one each by Ryan Smithy and Justin Thorne. The Cardinals’ Justin McCumber struck out 15 batters in the five-inning contest.

For the doubleheader, CCA struck out 22 times.

“Offensively, we are not there yet, we know that,” Hoyt said.

The offense did come to life a bit in the opening inning of the second contest.

Balsitis led off with a single which was followed by a single by Aron Garland. Smithy drove Balsitis home with a sacrifice fly to center field.

That would be all the offense the Cougars would muster in the game.

“We keep progressing as the days go by,” Balsitis said. “We rep the fundamentals over and over and we’re getting them down. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”

Crossroads Charter Academy is in action again Thursday when it travels to Pentwater.

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