Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
WHITEHALL – It’s been a big five days for Montague’s Johnson family.
On Friday, sophomore Britta Johnson anchored the Wildcats’ winning 4×400-meter relay team that clinched the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association track and field meet championship for the Wildcats on the final race of the night.
Tuesday afternoon, older brother Kade Johnson fired a no-hitter against host Whitehall and flirted with a perfect game to set the tone in Game 1 of a West Michigan Conference sweep. Montague won 12-1 in five innings in the first game and 5-0 in the second game. Whitehall, fresh off Saturday’s GMAA Tier 2 title, managed just one hit the entire day.
Like most siblings, the Johnsons are competitive. Kade Johnson conceded that his sister has him beat in the running department, but with a fastball consistently in the low-80s, he’s got her beat in throwing.
“She’s way faster,” said Kade Johnson, the son of Montague superintendent Jeff Johnson. “She has an arm, though, for a girl.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander, who mixed in a breaking ball and changeup, struck out nine batters and walked none in the first game of the CatchMark SportsNet Competition of the Week.
“You know, he was up and down, he was in and out, and he’s got a great changeup – that ball’s tough to read out of his hand and it just dives away. He changes speeds so well. He was hitting his spots and he just kept them off-balance,” Montague coach Kevin Buchberger said about Johnson.
Montague improves to 13-7 overall and 10-0 in the conference. North Muskegon (14-4-1, 10-0) swept Oakridge on the road Tuesday, setting the stage for a battle of league unbeatens next Monday (May 16) at Montague. First pitch of the doubleheader is 4 p.m. Both games will be livestreamed by CatchMark for free on the CSN YouTube channel.
Whitehall had its best day of the season Saturday in outscoring three GMAA opponents a combined 58-5, but Montague’s depth of pitching was too much for the Vikings (9-13, 4-6) to handle.
“I felt pretty good,” said Johnson, who is 5-1 on the season with 1.75 ERA. “My fastball was kind of running outside. Curveball, when it’s hot and muggy out, it’s breaking pretty good. The changeup, we only threw like two times and usually it’s one of my better pitches … .
“But, for the most part, we were hitting the zone pretty good and outfield and infield were helping me out.”
Johnson helped his own cause with three hits, while junior Nick Moss also had three hits in Game 1. Senior Colton Blankstrom homered.
In Game 2, junior left-hander Owen Petersen earned the win by allowing one hit with three strikeouts and one walk in four innings. Senior Tugg Nichols led the offense with a pair of hits, including a moonshot home run. Senior Hayden McDonald provided an RBI double, while junior Owen Fairchild added a run-scoring single.
Junior Landon Howe had Whitehall’s lone hit on the day. The Vikings started a pair of sophomores against the Wildcats, as Ryne Christensen took the Game 1 loss and Kyle Stratton absorbed the Game 2 defeat.
“They outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” Whitehall coach Warren Zweigle said. “They were better offensively, pitching, defensively, running bases. They worked harder than us. A lot of that’s on me – I don’t feel like I had the kids ready to play tonight.
“It’s a little disappointing because we’ve struggled hitting good pitching all year long and their pitchers were dominant. I knew that we were going to struggle scoring runs. … They dominated us in all aspects. They have a really nice team and they’re just better than we are right now.”
Montague is a battle-tested team. All seven of the Division 3 Wildcats’ losses have come against Division 1 or Division 2 opponents, three of which are ranked, including a 3-2 season-opening defeat against Division 1 fifth-ranked Mona Shores.
Last season, Montague shared the conference title with North Muskegon after the teams played a marathon doubleheader at Marsh Field that went deep into the night. Their two games lasted a total of 6 ½ hours with 650 pitches thrown, as the Wildcats took the first, 10-6, in a 14-inning slugfest that went on for nearly 4 ½ hours.
Montague has three nonleague games coming up against bigger schools (one at Sparta Thursday, two at Rockford Saturday) before it hosts North Muskegon, but it’s hard not to think about the upcoming showdown against the Norsemen.
“I personally am not really thinking about next Monday just because I like to go one day at a game, one game at a time,” Nichols said. “But, yeah, it’s going to be fun, being able to play against them knowing that we’re the one and two (teams) in the conference this year possibly. It’s just going to be fun.”
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