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JR Varsity Baseball Season Preview: Something to Prove

Tigers play on the road against Gilman on Saturday.
Diego Sanchez
CHASING MILESTONES: The Tigers having a postgame debrief after a scrimmage against Gonzaga from March 2.

As the sun set last spring, so did another opportunity for the Tigers. When senior right-hander Quinn Lindblom walked off the mound after two innings against St. Albans School, the weight of a state final loss for a fourth consecutive season struck. After riding momentum in the state playoffs, with wins over Maret and Gonzaga, the Tigers came up short once again, something they just haven’t been able to solve. 

“I was feeling let down, embarrassed, it wasn’t like I only let myself down, I felt like I let the school down, the seniors, the team as a whole, the coach,” said the captain Lindblom, who surrendered five runs and three hits, in the 6-1 loss. “But it motivated me, I was like ‘I’m not going to be feeling like this.’ Next year we’re going to come out stronger, work harder, and not let this happen again.” 

Those sentiments are the groundwork for the vision of the Tigers in the spring of ‘24: something to prove. The Tigers are eyeing extending their historic streaks of 30 straight years of winning every DCIAA championship, and not losing a single conference game since 1999 this spring. However, the team also wants to claim the missing ring: a state championship for the first time since 2018. 

“I think this team is extremely underrated, but also very special,” said co-captain and senior right-hander Casey Edwards. “A 31st straight DCIAA title is for sure in our future, I would definitely not count out a DCSAA championship. This group has some of the hardest working guys I have ever seen come through this program.” 

Additionally, six-year varsity assistant coach, Robinson Mateo, has taken over as head coach, from Henry Martinez, who is now head coach for the varsity baseball team at the Landon School. Joining Mateo are two new position coaches: pitching coach Kelliann Jenkins and hitting coach Luke Wallis.

“I’m excited, I’ve been with the team for a long time, and I know what these guys have,” said coach Mateo, who both played baseball and graduated from JR (then Wilson) in 2012. “I’ve seen how they’ve grown as baseball players and as a team. I feel like this year we’re more mature.”

“Our new head coach has really emphasized the importance of team chemistry, and especially in the Dominican Republic we started to come together as a team,” said junior centerfielder Zander Leckszas. “We have also started having captain practices on Sundays, where we prioritize interacting with teammates we usually don’t see outside of baseball.” 

That change is in wake of the team saying farewell to ten seniors, six out of the class which started in the state championship game against St. Albans last May. “Having majority younger players keeps everyone on their toes. There is nothing guaranteed for upperclassmen, and there are plenty of young players who are hungry for an opportunity to take the spot of someone above them,” said Edwards. The Tigers only have four seniors on their 21 man roster this season.

“I’m a firm believer that comfort kills growth, and if you constantly have someone behind you trying to take your spot, it’s impossible to be comfortable,” added Edwards. “Having young guys brings a feeling of looseness to the team, this team loves to have fun, and our style of play reflects that.” 

The Tigers will have 11 more home games this season at Fort Reno Park, after an opening day 26-0 win Monday against Bell. Home games for the Tigers this season include matchups against Sidwell Friends (Mar. 19), The Heights School (MD), (Apr. 2), The Hun School (NJ) (Apr. 6), The Avalon School (MD) (Apr. 19), and a rematch of last year’s DCIAA championship against School Without Walls (Apr. 26). 

On the road, the Tigers will face former head coach Henry Martinez’s Landon Bears (Mar. 21), and play a doubleheader against Georgetown Preparatory School (Apr. 20), in addition to 11 more private school games, after a loss to DeMatha on Tuesday. 

SOMETHING TO PROVE: The Tigers continue their season on the road against HD Woodson Wednesday afternoon.

The road state final rematch against St. Albans is set for (Mar. 28). In addition, the chance to extend their streak to 25 years of undefeated baseball in DCIAA conference play will be against Coolidge High School on the road, April 29.  

“We give thanks to coach Mateo, for not only the extra time he took to make sure our schedule is up and running, but the amount of games we are blessed to play because of his dedication towards us,” said junior third baseman Etan Rosario. “We get to face off against new teams, which helps us get better as a team for the city and state tournaments.” 

The Tigers (2-1) will look to prove that this spring, throughout their title and streak quests. That will continue in their fourth game of the season, against Gilman HS (0-2) in Baltimore, (MD) at 11 am. 

“This year, we’re a little bit more mature, we had a lot of sophomores playing last year,” added coach Mateo. “Now these guys are juniors, they’ve seen it, they’ve been through it and they know what it takes to be a championship team.”

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About the Contributor
Justin Glenn
Justin Glenn, Assistant Sports Editor
Justin is a sports fanatic.. you’ll most likely see him with a baseball cap of some sort throughout the hallways. If he isn’t writing about high school sports, he’s likely watching a D.C. sports team, NASCAR or some other professional league in his free time. Outside of sports, he enjoys the outdoors and watching Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, besides that, he’s an average out-going person.
  • 2023-24: Assistant Sports Editor
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