Varsity baseball loses crucial game one week prior to the National District Quarterfinals


Justin Chang

With rain pouring in the bottom of the 4th inning, starting pitcher Todd Hartman now looks to put Jefferson back in the lead with the team trailing Lee 6-12. Despite strong efforts and determination by the players, Jefferson narrowly lost to Lee 13-14 by the end of the 7th inning.

Justin Chang, Staff Writer

The varsity baseball team recently lost to Lee High School with a score of 13-14, just a week prior to the National District Quarterfinals. This score represented the team’s incredible 3rd and 6th inning comebacks despite a narrow loss. After the Lancers scored 7 runs in the first inning alone, the team faced little success, scoring only 2 runs in the 1st and 2nd inning, but hustled to narrow the lead with comebacks displaying sheer determination.

However, the players and coaches still acutely felt the disappointment of the loss following the game as the team added another consecutive loss to their record of 6 wins and 11 losses. While not outstanding, the varsity baseball team has seen considerable improvement over the past several years, especially compared to last season’s record of 4 wins and 13 losses. However, the loss against the Lancers proved to be fatal as the team’s seeding among the Region 5C teams, a preliminary ranking for the purpose of a future draw, dropped once again.

In the past couple of seasons, the varsity baseball team was twice eliminated from the Conference 13 Quarterfinals (now renamed to National District Quarterfinals) due to a poor season record; this resulted in a low seeding and caused the team to be paired up with the strongest team in the district. Previously in the 5A North Region, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) replaced several high school teams, excluding Jefferson, and renamed the group to Region 5C. Following Jefferson’s 17 games in the regular season, Jefferson will play in the District tournament along with 7 other teams, and the team that wins the District Championship qualifies for the Region 5C tournament. With the team seeding playing a major role in who is paired up with who in the National District Tournament, it is no doubt that the game against Lee was of great importance.

In the top of the 1st inning of the game against the Lee Lancers, senior Michael Li was replaced as pitcher by Rohan Cherukuri after a shaky start and allowing a base hit. However, the bases are soon loaded with no outs placing Lee in a position to score. Soon enough, Lee scored 3 runs placing them in the lead after a single and two walks. With bases still loaded and only 1 out, the Lancers were in another excellent position to score, and Jefferson’s worst fears came true when the next batter for Lee hit a grand slam putting them up 0-7. Cherukuri was then replaced as pitcher by Mark Dulaney who quickly ended the inning with 2 consecutive outs.

Jefferson was soon met with initial success as they scored in the bottom of the 1st inning and 2nd inning, while preventing Lee from scoring another run in the top of the 2nd inning. With the score now 2-7, Jefferson looked optimistic with their initial successes, but soon allowed another run in the top of the 3rd inning after a wild pitch by Mark Dulaney to catcher Patrick Zhang with a runner on 3rd. With the score now 2-8, the situation appeared to be hopeless and team was frustrated with their lack of success in the game. However, what soon came shocked everyone on the field including the players of Jefferson themselves as they rallied to make a 4-point comeback by scoring 4 runs and narrowing the lead to 6-8. In just a span of 15 minutes, Jefferson was back in the game with players and coaches cheering at high morale. Soon afterwards, though, the Lancers also had a 4-point comeback themselves scoring 4 runs in the top of the 4th inning.

In the bottom of the 4th inning, runners were on 2nd and 3rd and 2 consecutive wild pitches by the Lancers allowed Jefferson to score 2 more runs. With the score now 8-12, Jefferson now looked to put themselves back in the lead but before they could do so, a heavy downpour of rain forced the game to be delayed for over half an hour. In the top of the 5th inning, Jefferson’s defense looked to shut out the inning with no runs but failed to do so as Lee scored once again from a wild throw by the catcher to the 2nd baseman in an attempt to prevent the steal.In the bottom of the 5th inning, Jefferson had another golden opportunity to score as the bases were loaded with only 1 out. However, the inning abruptly and surprisingly ended after the Lancers made a double play due to confusion and failure to tag up among the players of Jefferson. In the top of the 6th inning, TJ’s strong defense produced 2 quick outs, but the moment was short lived after Jefferson allowed another run following 2 singles and a double. With the score 8-14, runners on 2nd and 3rd, and 2 outs Lee was in another position to score, but pitcher Saketh Gabbita managed to end the inning with a strikeout.

In the bottom of the 6th inning, the situation looked promising as runners were on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. After a pop out, the runner on 3rd scores after tagging up making the score now 9-14. Soon afterwards, the bases are loaded but with 2 outs, it is questionable whether Jefferson will score in the inning. However, pitcher and outfielder, Todd Hartman, is hit by the pitch and walks, which allows another runner to score. With the bases still loaded at 2 outs, Gabbita hits a triple and all 3 runners on the bases score and the game is now 13-14. However, the next batter then grounds out to end the inning ending Jefferson stretch of 5 runs. Unfortunately for Jefferson, they fail to score in the bottom of the 7th inning ending the game with yet another loss.

Despite the loss, players on the team acknowledged and affirmed their best efforts and determination to defeat Lee High School who previously had a record of 1 win and 12 losses prior to their game against Jefferson.

“It was unfortunate that we ended up losing, but we put up a fight,” Hartman said. “Scoring 13 runs isn’t easy to do and we hung in there the entire time. They kept scoring runs and we just kept coming back. We never gave up in the game, but unfortunately it didn’t end in the way we hoped but it was a good effort.”

Assistant coach Rob van Wijngaarden also praised the team for their fighting spirit and shared his thoughts on the team’s performance and efforts against Lee High School.

“We’ve had a lot of good comebacks lately, fighting a lot against good pitching and all sorts of teams like Marshall who are undefeated, teams like Stuart who have the same record as us, and teams like Lee who were, until tonight, unvictorious but no matter who we’re playing we have a lot of fight and that’s what you saw tonight,” Wijngaarden said.

Wijngaarden also shared what he hoped the team would continue to do in the upcoming games leading up to the National District Quarterfinals and mentioned what he learned from the game against Lee High School for the upcoming quarterfinals.

“Hopefully, I can see them continuing this hitting streak and if our defense stays solid, Falls Church would be no problem, just like any other team we can beat them,” said Wijngaarden. “The importance of this game was seeing how this district is anyone’s game. Marshall is very talented and undefeated but aside that it’s them. Every team whether we won against them or lost against them it’s been close.”

Hartman also expressed what he hoped the team would continue to do in future games and agreed with Wijngaarden in believing that they have a strong possibility of winning the National District Quarterfinals and qualifying for the Region 5C tournament.

“For the last two games we’ve been playing with a lot of energy and that’s something we’ve not been doing in the beginning of the season and we just want to keep that up,” Hartman said. “[The loss] is going to make our path a little bit harder, but it’s still doable and we still have a good shot at making regionals and doing well in the districts.