Tigers look to extend their three decade dominance

The Jackson-Reed baseball team is aiming for its 30th consecutive city championship this season. On top of winning every DCIAA title since 1993, the team hasn’t lost a single DCIAA game since 1999. 

While the exact number isn’t clear, the Tigers’ record in DCIAA games in that time is around 350-1. This season, the team is 12-0 against conference teams and 19-6 overall.

This streak puts pressure on the Tiger players, as an incredible legacy could be over with one bad game. “Sometimes it feels like we have everything to lose, and they have nothing to lose, which is hard to play against and maintain it,” said senior outfielder Liam Ervin, one of the team’s captains. 

That was evident last week, when the Tigers played School Without Walls in an in-league matchup. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on four walks by Walls pitcher Patrick Morelli. The Penguins tied it in the bottom of the inning, and the game was tied at 1-1 until the top of the final inning.

Tigers senior catcher Gabe Alexander drove in one run. Jackson-Reed added two more runs thanks to errors by the Walls defense. Tigers senior right-handed pitcher Ethan Barry held Walls scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, finishing the game with eight strikeouts in the 4-1 victory. 

“They have a great group,” Jackson-Reed head coach Henry Martinez said of Walls after the game. “They’ve worked hard. Everyone wants to beat us. But maturity, experience, and coaching comes into place to win these types of games.” 

Alexander added, “This win against Walls is a little bit grittier than other wins that we’ve had this season…we had to take care of business.”   

Despite the loss, Walls is still looking to dethrone the face of DCIAA baseball. “The number one goal for every season is always to beat JR, and we were as close as any Walls team has ever been,” School Without Walls senior left fielder Eliav Brooks-Rubin said. “We’re excited for the playoffs and getting another shot at JR in the [DCIAA] championship.” 

The close Walls game was an unusual exception to fairly less intense DCIAA games. Throughout the season, before the Walls game, Jackson-Reed beat Bell by a score of 30-1. The Tigers also defeated Dunbar, 25-0; Roosevelt, 22-0; Ron Brown, 20-0; and McKinley Tech, 18-0. With one league game left this week before the DCIAA playoffs, the Tigers’ run differential against league teams is 227-4.

This impressive streak is explained by the amount of resources Jackson-Reed has available, and the player pool that makes up the team. In the local area, competitive youth baseball leagues give kids the opportunities to take on the next level of their youth experiences: high school. Baseball resources aren’t necessarily present in other areas of the city, which has created this sports divide we see among D.C. 

The story against private schools is different. The Tigers have just a 5-6 record against regional private schools this season. Last year, the Tigers lost eight games in a row to private schools before falling to Gonzaga in the DC state championship game, 4-2. Jackson-Reed has won the DCSAA title just once, in 2018.

“We’re in a much better spot than where we were last year, losing eight private school games,” junior right-handed pitcher Casey Edwards said. “We aren’t undefeated, but we’re able to compete with these private schools and that’s very encouraging.”

The 2023 Tigers have been led by senior team captains, the catcher Alexander, outfielder  Ervin, and utility man Jacob Gerson. 

Head Coach Martinez highlights the captains and seniors playing a significant role in motivating the younger team to be a part of the baseball culture at Jackson-Reed, and producing impressive stats. 

“[The seniors] are the nucleus of the team, and they are going to do great things outside of baseball,” he said. 

Through last week, Alexander was batting .316 with 15 RBIs. Ervin batted .351 with three home runs and 16 runs scored. Gerson has flourished at the plate creating 15 RBIs, hitting .417 playing the majority of the final stretch of games in the outfield. 

Continuing the list of impactful seniors, Ethan Barry has batted .500, with 8 RBIs, followed by outfielder Luka Komives, who led the team in stolen bases with 13. Outfielder Flynn Sullivan hammered opposing pitching at .477, with 17 runs plated, while outfielder Jamari Burriss caps off his season with a total of seven RBIs, along with a homerun, hitting .500.   

Underclassmen on the team are an essential aspect of the program now. Sophomore third baseman Etan Rosario has stepped up to the plate with a strong .444 average. Zander Leckszas, an important pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation, has also contributed at the plate as a utility man, and, in an increased role, catcher Ethan Fox-Fernandez has slugged 9 RBIs this season.

With talented seniors graduating soon, the team will expect to increase their workload in the ‘24 season. Head Coach Martinez notes, “JV has played a lot of private schools, meaning experience will be a key factor entering next season.” 

The Tigers’ pitching has been a strength throughout the season, giving up 3.5 runs a game on average. Leckszas notes that “a new pitching coach [Mario Alvarez, former major league pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization], has really broken down our mechanics to see what works well with each individual player.”  

Senior right-hander Knox West had an impressive 1.90 earned run average (ERA), and junior righty Finn Boyle displayed an unhittable 1.16 ERA to help elevate the ballclub to crucial wins against DC International and Flint Hill. 

Right-handed junior Quinn Lindblom has put together an impressive season, receiving praise from college-prep Benedictine Head Coach Sean Ryan, as “the best pitcher his squad has faced all year.” Coach Martinez emphasized Lindblom as “our ace, and number one guy,” recording 38 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched in 2023. 

Martinez continued in regards to his ballclub as “a group that is really caring, and passionate.” After a past off-season full of preparation, the team bonded together as a collective unit.

Now aiming to keep this legendary streak going with playoffs for DCIAA just around the corner,

“We have to not be selfish on and off the field,” junior left-handed pitcher Jack Jannsen said. “Having a tough schedule, with private schools that are top tier in DC, we have to stay locked in.”