After three years as an independent, Jefferson once again has a league championship to celebrate.
The Falcons downed Girard, 5-4, on the baseball diamond in a home game at Girard on Tuesday to claim the All-American Conference championship, the first of any kind since they joined the league. The game was moved to Girard during the day Tuesday because of field conditions, though the Falcons remained the home team.
“It was a nice thing to do,” Jefferson coach Scott Barber said. “It was one of the first goals we wanted to achieve for the year.
“It’s a very good league for baseball. It was a challenge and it seems like we’re seeing everybody’s best pitchers. That’s makes it an even better league.”
The baseball team was the last group of Falcons — also coached by Barber — to win a league title, claiming the Northeastern Conference in 2008. Jefferson (14-5, 8-1) spent three seasons as an independent before beginning play in the AAC last fall.
“(Winning the league in our first year) sets a good precedent,” Barber said. “We played a lot of these teams in the past. It’s nice to win the first (AAC championship) for the school. That’s something that’s pretty big, especially after playing an independent schedule. It’s nice for the kids to have something to compete for.
“Playing an independent schedule got old. It’s tough to get the kids up for games.”
The Falcons had to resort to good ol’ fashioned baseball to beat the Indians (15-8, 5-4). They used good
pitching, solid defense and a combination of tactics to push across runs in four different innings.
“We had two good sacrifice bunts by Jesse Skvarek, a couple of timely steals and a couple of good hit and runs. We played baseball the way it’s supposed to be played.
“We pitched well and played good defense, except for that one inning.”
Jefferson plated a pair of runs in the first, and one each in the second, third and fourth innings.
“It’s tournament time,” Barber said. “I told them we were going to bunt and hit behind runners because you have to manufacture runs in the tournament. We went with the team approach at the plate.”
Chase Stowe led off the home half of the first with a double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Piscsalko. Andy Santiago later walked and was driven in on Johnny Knight’s triple.
Scott Davidson was hit by a pitch with one out in the second, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Skvarek and scored on a single by Stowe.
Santiago went deep to lead off the third.
Kyle Ashburn’s double started the fourth. Davidson was hit by another pitch and Skvarek moved the runners with his second sacrifice bunt. Stowe tallied his second RBI on a sacrifice fly for a 5-0 Jefferson lead.
Troy Bloom (3-0) worked the first five innings on the hill for the win. He allowed two runs, neither were earned, on four hits. He walked four and struck out four. Joe Piscsalko pitched the sixth for the hold.
The Indians took advantage of a single, a couple of walks and a couple of errors to tally four unearned runs in the sixth.
“It’s a little nerve wracking to give them four runs,” Barber said.
Kurtis Fusco came on in the seventh and induced three ground balls for the save, his second of the season.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.