JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP —
The Geneva United Junior All-Stars got the early jump on Jefferson Thursday afternoon in an attempt to come out of the losers bracket to claim the District 1 baseball crown, but Jefferson regrouped, took advantage of a four-run fourth inning to take a commanding lead, and closed the game out with superb defense.
Those factors led to a solid 7-2 win for Jefferson, sending them to the state tournament next weekend in Elyria.
The tide turned decidedly toward Jefferson’s favor when they scored four times in that fourth frame.
Bryce Cox led off with a single to center. He stole second, moved up on an infield out, and James Jackson brought him home with a single to left. Jackson also stole second, and Daniel Noscal beat out a grounder to short. An errant throw on the play allowed Jackson to cross the plate, and after a strikeout for the second out, Matt Licate sent a single to left to score Noscal.
Tyler Maylish sent a long drive to left that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, and Jefferson, using a balanced pitching rotation to combats the Geneva offense, expanded a 2-1 lead to 6-1.
Then came the change that pretty much sealed Geneva’s fate.
Jefferson manager Gary Licate brought in Colten Wilber to pitch, and his overpowering pitching throttled Geneva the rest of the way.
“Changing our pitchers was part of game plan today,” Licate said. “We’ve got a pretty good rotation to work with, but we knew Geneva is a really good team, so we prepared our pitchers with the possibility that we might need to play them again tomorrow (Friday).”
Geneva manager John James agreed with the idea of pitching taking over.
“We just didn’t hit today,” he said. “We didn’t hit nearly as capably as we have in getting to this point, but Jefferson’s pitching also played a part in that. We came into today planning on having our best pitcher going for us in Brent Bell, but he came down with mono, so we went with our other pitchers, and they didn’t do a bad job at all.
“We made a couple mistakes, they hit the ball well when they had to. We thought we’d be alright today, but Jefferson has good pitching and played good defense. We did, too, just not good enough.”
While Wilber’s pitching was sharp, timely hitting got Jefferson going.
“I felt we hit the ball well the whole game,” Licate said. “Finally, in the third inning, we got a break, and then our hitters really started to find the holes.”
The fourth frame featured five hits for Jefferson, half of their game total. Defense also was solid for both teams considering the young fellow’s young ages. Errors, while not abundant in the well played game, did play large roles.
A dropped throw at first in the third inning led to the first Jefferson run, driven home by a ground ball from Tyler Maylish. Wilber crushed a ball to the left center field fence for a double and the second run, and then came the big fourth inning that blew the game open.
Then defense from Jefferson got into the act when Geneva showed in the top of the seventh that they would not go out quietly.
Wilber gave a single to right center to Mike Clark. He moved up when Aiden Henneessey walked. A popup to second baseman Matt Licate garnered the first out of the inning, and when Clark was slow to get back to second, Licate zipped a throw to nip the runner for a double play.
After another walk, Daniel Osborne sent a vicious liner toward right field that first baseman Brandon (Bubba) Hagerdon snared as he tumbled to the ground for the out to secure the trip to Elyria.
Jeremiah Knight was the only Jefferson hitter with multiple hits, ripping a pair of singles. Matt Licate scored twice, and Maylish drove home a pair to key a balanced attack.
The numbers may not have indicated how well Geneva hit the ball, though. No hitter had multiple hits, but several Geneva hit balls hard, just at Jefferson defenders.
One such play came in the third to end the frame. Hagerdon, who hit the ball hard all three times he batted, sent a shot toward left center, but shortstop Jack Frye made a major league quality backhand stop and fired to first for the out.
But, Geneva just didn’t get the offense they needed to get past the Jefferson.
Jefferson will begin state play the weekend of July 21 in Elyria.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.