Jakob Cramer saw a new defensive alignment when he stepped to the plate April 22.

Jakob Cramer saw a new defensive alignment when he stepped to the plate April 22.

The junior for the Johns-town-Monroe High School baseball team noticed Northridge had put on a shift with three infielders to the right of second base.

The right-handed batter, who likes to hit the ball to the opposite field, wasn't fazed and produced a two-run single in the 7-4 loss.

"I saw it and wasn't really surprised," said Cramer, who was hitting .422 before the Johnnies played East Knox on May 2. "My step-dad, Mike Crawford, is an assistant over there (at Northridge). They do things like that."

Cramer has fueled the Johnnies' offense with 19 hits in 45 at-bats, 12 runs, 10 RBI and a .519 on-base percentage through 18 games.

"We weren't trying to show up (Jakob) or anything like that," Northridge coach Jeff Wilson said. "We knew that he was a big key to (the Johnnies') offense and a lot of his hits went to the right side. We were just trying to cut down on that. He's a great hitter."

Those numbers come from hard work. Cramer spent the offseason honing his batting skills at Big League Baseball, an indoor facility in Newark.

"They would throw several baseballs to me and tell me to 'hit the bottom one' or 'hit the middle one,'" said Cramer, who batted .272 last season. "That helped me to focus on the baseball."

Johnstown coach Tony Cleveland said Cramer is in a groove at the plate.

"Jakob is seeing the ball well, and he has put in the time and effort hitting in the cages," Cleveland said. "He has worked to become a good hitter.

"Jakob has the drive and he doesn't take hitting for granted. He knows it's a big part of the game and he's focused on making the most of each trip to the plate."

Cramer said an important part of hitting is understanding what the pitcher is trying to do.

"You have to have an idea of what pitch is coming, timing it up and knowing where you are going to hit it," he said. "I try to go with the pitch. If there is a breaking ball coming, you want to try to use all of the field and drive it to right."

Cramer plays second base and said his success at the plate has carried out to the field.

"(Hitting well) definitely gives you more confidence out there (in the field)," he said. "It puts you in a better mood and makes you feel like you can do anything."

Anything, that is, except pitch. Cramer isn't one to take the mound because he's not comfortable being 60 feet, 6 inches from the batter.

"I'm afraid to pitch," he said. "I've seen too many people get hit (with a batted ball) because you're so close to the plate. I'm not really into doing that."

Before playing league-leading Fredericktown on May 3, the Johnnies had won four of five MBC contests and were 7-12 overall and 5-5 in the league. They defeated Utica 9-1 on April 23 before losing to Fredericktown 13-2 on April 24. Then they beat East Knox twice, 4-1 on April 25 and 4-2 on May 2, and Centerburg 4-3 on April 30.

"I think we have started to come together as a team," Cramer said. "We have started to put things together and have been manufacturing runs a lot more."