The Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) baseball team finished in second place in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) conference this year, just one game behind Kellogg Community College. They were 19-7 in conference and 39-22 overall. GRCC earned a berth to the regionals held in Battle Creek with the second-place conference finish. The regionals included the top six teams from the MCCAA and two teams from Ohio, one of which (Sinclair Community College) was ranked third in the country. The Raiders had to win six of their seven regional games to win the regional championship, and the seventh was a tightly contested, extra-inning game versus Macomb Community College. GRCC ended up winning 6-5 in 10 innings to earn a bid to the Junior College World Series in Enid, Okla., May 26-June 2. They are currently ranked 11th in the nation, according to the most recent NJCAA Division II poll. Two former Rockford Ram players and now GRCC Raiders, Christian Lienesch and Austin Stephens, will be part of the Raiders’ World Series endeavor. Both Lienesch and Stephens played a big part in the Rockford baseball Division I state championship last June—the place: Battle Creek. Lienesch and Stephens commented to each other as they pulled into Bailey Park in Battle Creek on Friday, May 11 that they “had a good feeling about things” and “had won a championship there before.” Even though they are freshmen at GRCC, their leadership and championship experience was valuable. “Ram pride served us well,” said Stephens. “Coaches Hearn, Doyle and Fusee taught us to set the bar high and expect success. That mindset helped a lot.” Both Lienesch and Stephens have enjoyed success as Raiders this season and look to build on that in Enid, Okla. in the coming days. Lienesch has been a stingy outfielder, tracking down fly balls for the Raiders this season. He is batting .367 with two doubles and 14 runs scored. Stephens, a left-handed pitcher, is 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA and is second on the team, and fifth in the conference, with five saves. GRCC has another Rockford resident on the team. Right-handed pitcher, David Frederick, is a sophomore for the Raiders. Frederick was a Northview graduate in 2010 and has accepted an offer […]
Rams defeat Northview to win district title On Saturday, June 4, at Northview High School, Rockford won their first district game 11-2 behind another great pitching performance by senior left-hander, Joe Kropiewnicki. Kropiewnicki did what he has done all year, utilizing pinpoint accuracy and keeping the hitters off balance. Kropiewnicki cruised through the first and second innings facing only seven batters. He struck out the last two batters in the second and the first two batters of the third for four consecutive strikeouts. Then, with two out in the third, Kenowa Hills’ Chad Makarewicz reached on an error. That was followed by doubles by Matt Neal and Greg Chulski to score Kenowa Hills’ only two unearned runs. Kropiewnicki breezed through the fourth and fifth innings as well. In the sixth, he got into a bit of a jam by allowing two consecutive singles and his only walk to load the bases with no outs. He then proceeded to strikeout the next batter, induce a shallow pop fly to right field, and strike out the final batter of the inning to strand all three runners. He worked a 1-2-3 seventh to seal the win. Kropiewnicki’s line was 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. He moved his record to 9-0 on the season and has an ERA just above one. The Rams’ offense was explosive and they also benefited from nine walks doled out by Kenowa Hills pitchers. Rockford scored two runs in the first when Drew Farmer and Brandon Nostrant walked, Shain Showers singled, and brother, Brent Showers (who is freshman brought up for the tournament), hit a sacrifice fly. In the second inning, Bryan Baldwin walked, as did Andrew Rademacher. Farmer singled and Christian Leinesch singled to score two more. The Rams garnered four more runs in the third when Ian Stankus walked and Rademacher, Farmer and Nostrant all singled. Rockford was scoreless in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth the Rams scored one more when B. Showers doubled, Stankus walked for a third time, and Baldwin hit a sacrifice fly. Rockford’s final two runs came in the seventh when Farmer walked, Nostrant and Leinesch singled and B. Showers doubled. Offensive leaders were Farmer (2-3), Nostrant (3-4, 2b), […]
Austin Stephens, a senior left-handed pitcher for the Rams, has signed a national letter of intent to pitch for the Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Raiders baseball team next year. Stephens accepted the scholarship offer from GRCC head coach Mike Cupples after a long and difficult evaluation process. Stephens had received scholarship offers from several NAIA schools including Aquinas, Davenport, Huntington, Spring Arbor, Indiana Wesleyan, University of Northwestern Ohio and Division II Northwood University. Being such a “late-bloomer,” Stephens felt that going to GRCC at this point would allow him to continue to get stronger and possibly lead to a Division I scholarship offer in a year or two. “I really appreciate all the interest and generous offers by all the baseball coaches, but I think GRCC is the right fit for me at this point in my life,” said Stephens. Stephens has been an important part of the Ram pitching staff for the last couple of seasons. “It’s been great playing for Coach Hearn and being a Ram. If you can compete in the tough OK Red conference, you can compete at a lot of places,” said Stephens. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be an important part of the Raider pitching staff and improve even more. GRCC has won five national baseball titles. They have a great tradition and I hope to help them continue that tradition.” Stephens will join fellow Ram, Christian Leinesch, who also accepted a scholarship offer to play for GRCC. Austin is the son of Mark and Wendy Stephens.
You’d think baseball would come easy to Austin Stephens, whose dad, Mark, played for the Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and the Montreal Brewers. The lanky lefty is six-foot, four-inches and weighs in at 185 pounds. Growing up with a dad as his pitching coach, Stephens was nevertheless frustrated as a freshman and then sophomore on the Rockford junior varsity baseball team because he hardly ever was called in to play. A year later, he is a starter on the varsity team, and has increased his pitch from 75 miles per hour to 80. He increased his vertical by one foot, shaved a half-second off his 60 time, and can bench press 35 pounds more than he used to be able to. He has his eye on professional baseball with hopes to go as far as his dad and farther, and is willing and able to help other athletes discover the training workouts that he credits with his improvement. “Eighty percent of pitching is core strength,” Stephens stated. He said it is a common misconception that throwing hard is about arm strength. The core—bottom of the ribs to the top of the kneecaps—training that has improved his performance in pitching can improve virtually any athletic performance, whether it is in crew, football, or any other sport, Stephens stated. Stephens said he talked with his dad on what he could do to get more time playing, and the two of them discovered a core-training program, which other professional ball players believe in. He ordered his own copy of the program and began working it diligently. He was so impressed with his improvements, he decided to hone the regimen into one-hour workouts and offer it to other athletes. The result is Sports Power Training, Stephens’ own business. Stephens teaches his core-training workouts three days a week in the facility opened by family friend Bob Simonson, who used to play on the same professional baseball team as Stephens’ dad. Stephens began offering the workout—which he said is also a full-body workout—three times a week, although athletes can come just one or two days and still benefit. The classes are held at the location of Power Baseball, 8181 Graphic Drive (off Ten Mile Road), Rockford. The cost varies depending […]
The Rockford varsity baseball team lost a pretty important game to Hudsonville on Tuesday, May 18 at Hudsonville. The final score after seven innings was 3-0. The loss will likely take them out of the running for repeating as OK Red conference champions. The Rams’ offense was held in check by Hudsonville junior pitcher Skylar Hoke, who was tough to hit all day. His fastball was consistently 84-86 and his breaking pitch was effective. Rockford did garner four hits, but just couldn’t string them together. Hudsonville benefited from some timely calls by the umpires that were in question by the Rockford crowd. Christian Lienesch, Bryan Baldwin, Zach Martinek and Taylor Masiewicz all had singles for the Rams. Defensively, the Rams had a couple of errors that Hudsonville took advantage of. Baldwin continued his string of strong pitching efforts. He held Hudsonville’s potent offense to just five hits on the day. He gave up three walks and struck out four. Baldwin’s fastball was good as well. He was pretty consistent between 81-84, reaching 85 a couple of times early in the contest. On Thursday, May 20 at Rockford, the home team beat a tough Hudsonville team to avenge their 3-0 loss earlier in the week. The Rams beat the Eagles 5-4 with timely hits and solid defense. Rockford managed just five hits on the day, but they were timely. The Rams linked three hits and a walk in the third inning to score three runs. One of the hits was a homerun by sophomore Tony DiLeo. Rockford scored two more runs in the fourth inning on a double by Evan Smith, an error, a sacrifice bunt by Baldwin, and a sacrifice fly by Shain Showers. The Rams’ offense was held in check for their last two innings, but the five runs for the day were enough to win. Leading the way offensively was Brandon Nostrant, who was 2-3 with one RBI, and DiLeo, who was 1-2 with 2 RBIs. The other two hits came from Baldwin and Smith. Defensively, the Rams relied on the left arm of junior Austin Stephens, who struggled a bit in the first inning, but settled down after that and went the distance to notch the win. He gave up two runs […]