The Jefferson R7 Blue Jays had a back and forth season, but ended up surprising some with their 13-13 overall record and the third seed in the Class 3 District 3 Playoffs. The postseason started off great with a 5-3 win over the Kingston Cougars in the opening round, but it ended poorly with a 14-4 loss to the eventual champion West County Bulldogs.
The game against the Cougars started off great for the Jays as they took an early 2-0 lead with with a smoke show of a home run by Sam Stokes in the bottom of the first. With a runner on, he scorched the first pitch he saw to center and gave Jefferson a 2-0 lead.
Kingston would tie the game in the top of the second with two of their own, but the Blue Jays answered right back with three more in the bottom of the third. Kole Williams drove in a run with a double to kick things off in the inning and then Stokes added another run with a sac fly. A Cole Robinson RBI single then made it 5-2 and R7 had enough insurance to protect their starter.
AJ Ciliberto was strong in this one and pitched a complete game for the win. He allowed three runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings and struck out five. Stokes and Williams provided the bulk of the offense with their aforementioned accomplishments.
That sent the Blue Jays to the Semifinals, but they would face an extremely tough opponent in the West County Bulldogs. Jefferson managed to score in the first and take a brief lead on a Robinson double, but West County struck for two, five and one runs in the ensuing three innings. They added five more in the fifth and then another in the sixth to trigger the mercy rule.
The Jays did get a nice two-RBI double from Garrett Lalumondier in the fifth but it wasn’t nearly enough as they fell 14-4, effectively ending their season.
Despite the somewhat early exit, it was still a solid season for Jefferson. Last year they were just 9-15, so this season’s 13-13 record was a marked improvement. They also had some players with impressive individual seasons.
The pitching staff left a little something to be desired with a collective 4.54 ERA and 1.77 WHIP, but they did manage 123 Ks in 149.2 innings pitched. It’s obviously an area to improve on next year, but there is potential. Robinson, Williams and Ciliberto started the majority of the games and were admirable overall.
Offensively, Lalumondier and Max Schnitzler helped pace the offense with .333 and .394 averages, respectively, and both had an OPS just below 1.000. Stokes was the true heavy hitter though. He led the team in average (.453), OBP (.595), SLG (.679), OPS (1.274), homers (2) and RBI (21).
Schnitzler was a madman on the base paths, leading the team in runs (29) and steals with 20. Gavin Theodoro stole 16 in limited time and Stokes also racked up 15, so it’s evident that the running game was a strength for this club.
All of the Blue Jays put forth a collectively impressive effort in 2023 and it looks like the team is making strides in the right direction. Congrats on a solid season and we look forward to next year.