On a young Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team with only three seniors, one player clearly has emerged as a team leader.

On a young Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team with only three seniors, one player clearly has emerged as a team leader.

Senior Cory Keesee has let his play speak for itself both on the mound and at the plate. Through 15 games, Keesee led the team in batting average (.400), hits (18) and RBI (10). The numbers are products of hard work and dedication, regardless of the season.

"I've improved every aspect of my game," Keesee said. "I've gotten stronger, throwing the ball a lot harder this year. I've also worked on command, really honing in on the pitching skills, and I think it's shown on the mound. I work hard but I enjoy the game so much that most of the time I don't even realize how much effort I put into it."

Keesee's improvement on the mound is evident. After posting a 7-3 record in 2007, the left-hander is off to a fast start this year. He improved to 4-1 with a 2-1 victory over East Knox last Monday. Through 32 innings pitched, he had 37 strikeouts and a 2.63 ERA.

Admittedly not the most vocal player in the dugout, Keesee's quiet confidence inspires the younger players in the lineup.

"I enjoy being a role model," he said. "I tend to play well under pressure and having younger guys look up to me is kind of neat. When I was a freshman or sophomore I looked up to the older guys and couldn't wait to play like them when I got my shot."

Next year, Keesee will play for coach Ron Palmer at Davis & Elkins in West Virginia.

"He really understands the game," Palmer said. "In any aspect of his life, in baseball or outside of baseball, Cory is going to be very successful. He's confident about everything he does, has his head on straight and he knows what direction he wants to go in."

Davis & Elkins is a Division II school with an enrollment of about 2,000 students. US News and World Report recently named it the highest ranked institution in West Virginia.

"Cory is exactly the kind of kid you want representing your institution," Palmer said. "His parents have every reason to be proud of his behavior on and off the field."

Alan and Traci Keesee are thrilled. Their son has seen it throughout the recruiting process. "They were really proud of me," Cory said. "They were going to support me anywhere I went. Most of all they're really happy for me because they know how badly I wanted to continue playing."

•Northridge hopes to continue its recent success when it meets Keesee and the Johnnies on Monday.

After edging Loudonville 5-4 last Monday, the Vikings crushed Danville 11-1 the next day in clearly their most decisive victory of the season.

"We finally started to put things together and turn our season around," said Ryan King, the pitcher against Danville. "We're done with losing and we're going to start pouring it on people like we know how."

It was the first time this year that Northridge had earned consecutive MBC wins. After losing to Johnstown 14-5 in the previous meeting, King and the Vikings are looking to extract some revenge.

"It's a rivalry game," he said. "We need to come into it with high intensity knowing that they beat us on our field. We need to return the favor."

The Johnnies' Justin Deal connects with a pitch last Tuesday during an 11-0 loss to visiting Utica in MBC play.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge baseball teams:

JOHNSTOWN

*April 18 -- Defeated Loudonville 8-4

April 19 -- Lost to River Valley 12-3 and 8-3

*Last Monday -- Def. East Knox 2-1

*Last Tuesday -- Lost to Utica 11-0

*Last Friday -- Played Centerburg

*Monday -- Home vs. Northridge

*Tuesday -- At Danville

*Friday -- Home vs. Fredericktown

Of note: The Johnnies were 5-10 overall and 4-4 in the MBC before last Friday.

NORTHRIDGE

*April 18 -- Lost to Centerburg 6-5

April 19 -- Lost to Columbus Academy 12-5. Northridge had seven errors

*Last Monday -- Def. Loudonville 5-4

*Last Tuesday -- Def. Danville 11-1

*Last Friday -- Played Fredericktown

Last Saturday -- Central Cross Tourney

*Monday -- At Johnstown

*Tuesday -- Home vs. East Knox

*Friday -- At Utica

Of note: The Vikings were 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the MBC before last Friday.

*MBC game