Pete Zimmermann, Ryan Blake-Jones helping to power Clippers’ potent offense

By Dave Hart
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – The spring college baseball season is long, and by the time it’s over, a lot of players have already seen their share of action.

By the time they report for summer collegiate leagues, some are battling a bit of baseball burnout.

Peter Zimmermann rounds third base on June 10, and is congratulated by coach Walt Gawkowski after a 2-run home run. Photo/Jason Goorman

But that’s not the case for Peter Zimmermann and Ryan Blake-Jones, who anchor the middle of the batting order for the Muskegon Clippers.

The two sluggers saw very little action as freshmen for their respective college teams this spring. So when they reported to the Clippers, both were more than ready to get their seasons rolling, and they’ve done so with flying colors.

Zimmermann leads Muskegon with five home runs and 26 RBIs. He’s second in the league in home runs and RBIs.

Blake-Jones played a big role getting the Clippers out of the gate this season, hitting a home run in each of the team’s first three games. He currently has three homers (third on the team), six doubles (tied for the team lead) and 17 RBIs (third on the team).

Those two sluggers – as well as teammates like Cameron Bair, Tyler Trovinger, Wyatt Feasterston, Bryce Kelley and Nolan Bryant – have helped give the Clippers one of the most explosive lineups in the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer Baseball League.

While the team’s record is so-so – the Clippers are 11-13 and in third place in the Great Lakes League’s Eastern Division, five games out of first – their bats have been booming. They lead the league with 23 home runs, and are third in doubles (42) and RBIs (135).

Ryan Blake-Jones gives first-base coach Brian Wright a high-five after driving in a pair of runs in Game 1 of a doubleheader on July 3. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Clippers will resume action following the holiday break with a Thursday home game at 7:05 p.m. against the Grand River Loggers. They will have another game against Grand River on Friday night, then will host St. Clair on Saturday and Sunday night.

“We have never had this many guys in the middle of the order that can leave the yard,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski. “We can bunch four or five guys in the middle of the order who can leave the yard. That’s huge. It can change the game with one swing. We have a nice offensive team.”

Zimmerman and Blake-Jones are just happy to be swinging bats and playing ball, after spending their freshman colleges seasons largely on the sidelines.

Zimmermann, a former high school standout from St. Louis, saw limited playing time at St. Louis University this spring, due to a back injury. He will be transferring this fall San Jacinto Junior College in Houston, and he’s warming up for his new gig by swinging the hottest bat of all the Clippers.

“I don’t think I have hit my groove yet individually,” Zimmerman said. “I am still shaking off some of the rust from playing limited time this year. But I’ve really enjoyed my time in Muskegon. Walt is a great coach and Pete (team owner Pete Gawkowski) is a great owner.

Ryan Blake-Jones catches the pop up for the Clippers on June 27. Photo/Leo Valdez

“We will get better as the season continues,” he continued. “The starting pitching is coming around and I think we will win more games than we have so far. As for the early success offensively. I believe that hitting is contagious and it has shown.”

Blake-Jones, played high school baseball in Saline, Michigan and was a second-team All-Stater.

But like Zimmerman, his freshman college baseball season didn’t involve a lot of action, because the was redshirted so he can have an extra year of college eligibility.

Blake-Jones said it’s been exciting to be an everyday player for the Clippers and have a chance to pound the ball.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well this summer. and just been trying to let good things happen,” he said.  “I really like it here (Muskegon). It’s a great league and it’s a lot of fun playing at Marsh Field.

“I think as a team we really hit well from top to bottom, and we’ve been putting up a lot of runs because of that.”

 

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