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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Varsity Baseball crowned DCSAA State Champions in a walkoff comeback

The Tigers are state champions for the first time since 2018.
GOLDEN+MOMENT+-+The+Varsity+Baseball+boys+pose+for+a+picture+with+their+newly+won+DCSAA+Championship+banner.+The+team+beat+the+Maret+Frogs+late+Sunday+afternoon.
Aireon Boone
GOLDEN MOMENT – The Varsity Baseball boys pose for a picture with their newly won DCSAA Championship banner. The team beat the Maret Frogs late Sunday afternoon.

Early on in Sunday’s DCSAA Baseball State Championship, almost nothing appeared to go right for the Tigers. Mistakes, heartbreak, failure, and head scratchers darkened a sunny, winner-take-all final at Nats Academy. Each effort seemed to hold no answer. Down all game, in an attempt to pick up his players in the multitude of frustration, head coach Robinson Mateo relayed the message: “Six outs to make it count.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning with one out, junior third baseman Etan Rosario stepped into the batter box with one goal: to put a ball in play, and not in the glove of a Maret Frog. With runners on first and third, the Tigers were one swing away from completing a comeback. The first ball thrown at Rosario was low, and then a fastball headed towards the strike zone. As the fastball heater hurtled at him, he lined it back towards the mound up the middle in a prayer. The ball caught seeds of astro turf as it broke through the infield, and died in centerfield. Junior center fielder Zander Leckszas crossed home plate, and the celebration began. The swarm and emotions of a comeback filled the air to top off a walkoff base hit, and the Tigers rallied back, 5-4. 

“Waking up was stressful. Coming here though I [knew] I had family to back me up, they were the reason I even got the opportunity to get that hit and walkoff,” said Rosario, drenched from a Gatorade bath. “We all stuck together no matter how many runs we [were] down. We pushed ourselves, we believed in ourselves, and we got the win.” 

In a season where they went 23-7, the Tigers broke the grueling curse of four consecutive seasons of falling short in the state final. The program won their first state championship since 2018, with the same score of a 5-4 win over St. Albans. 

“We fell behind the first two innings, but the guys believed,” said head coach Robinson Mateo, who won his first DCSAA championship this season. “That’s what we try to do: believe. I’ve been telling the guys all year to believe in the man behind you, and we did that today.”

“I tell the guys if you are not starting, that doesn’t mean you can’t help the team,” added Mateo. “At some point, your name is going to be called.” 

Sunday’s rubber match between the Frogs and Tigers was a pure glass case of emotion. The frames of seven innings had every plot line and twist normally portrayed in old time sports movies. In the first inning, the Tigers’ backs were against the wall. Senior right-hander and captain Casey Edwards got the first two outs quickly, however a single, turned double via an error, didn’t allow the Tigers to escape the inning just yet. On the next play, a routine ground ball turned into a throwing error on back-to-back plays, plated a run for the Frogs, 1-0. 

Early mistakes left Maret eager to make a statement. Three walks, wild pitches, and two errors scored the first three runs for the Frogs. The Tigers had to work from behind. Edwards reached 47 pitches through just an inning and a third. In the second inning, Mateo walked out the mound and pulled his senior ace, a call to the bullpen in a hope to get a near wrecked train back on track. 

“When things started to go wrong it shook everyone. We started off a little shaky, even myself—I was a little rattled to start,” said Edwards. However, the team didn’t give up: “Yes, there [were] nerves, frustration, people slamming their stuff in the dugout… everything; it was like a movie. But I never lost faith in our team, everyone has [a] heart and [lends it] in a way they can.” 

With the season in the balance, sophomore Nelson Hayes entered in relief of Edwards. Getting the ball from his head coach, Hayes patched an emerging leak, throwing five innings and ⅓, only allowing one earned run and one hit to pair with five strikeouts. 

“I can’t believe that we did it, coming back 3-0,” said Hayes. “We’ve had that fight all year. I pitched five out of the last seven days.” The young righty’s mindset: “Just give us a chance, give us a chance to win.” 

That chance came in the bottom of the sixth. Looking to seal the deal, Maret summoned Division I Villanova signee left-hander Ben Pew after five no-hit innings from starter Division I Richmond signee Max Genderson. Junior Jackson Loomis stepped to the plate, and hit a ground ball. However, as the shortstop legged out a single, a dramatic stride onto first base hyperextended his knee, putting him airborne and the game at a standstill. 

The DCIAA Player of the Year had to be taken out of the game. The Tigers, with heads high in an effort to rally spirits, became deflated once again. “It was a bumpy game, ups and downs, but we pulled it off, like I knew we would,” said Loomis. “This is a true family. Everyone is brother to brother, we have a deep regard for each other, and confidence in each other’s abilities. There is no one I wouldn’t trust.” 

Two batters later, Jack Jannsen stepped into the batters box. Seeing two straight balls, strike one looking, the lefty hit a single past first base, scoring two runs, 3-2. The breakthrough the Tigers were looking for finally came, scoring their first runs in the sixth frame. 

In a hold’em situation, looking to allow no runs, junior Owen Stone entered the game for Hayes, who threw 80 pitches in five and ⅓ innings. Stone worked the first two outs, but a balk was called. The Frogs were spotted another run, the score now 4-2, with a statement making late cushion in the top of the seventh. 

With all seeming to be sealed for the Tigers, in relief of Loomis, junior left fielder Ryan Skelly entered the batters box. The bases were loaded from a hit via a single, a hit by a pitch, and a fielding error. Skelly hit a ground ball and finished out the play, causing a throwing error, which scored two runs for the Tigers. The game was tied at four. 

“If he [gave] me a fastball I just [had to] put it in play. I knew I didn’t have to hit a double. Then he gave me one, 3-2. I knew I wasn’t going to go down looking,” said Skelly. “I didn’t even know it was tied when I got to first, I didn’t realize it was a walkoff [by Rosario] until everyone ran on the field. It’s surreal.” 

This game marked Rosario’s first start since May 2 due to a shoulder injury. “I thought we lost [him] for states, [so] being able to put [him] in the lineup today was huge. I told him get a pitch to hit and put it in play, and he did.” 

Officially state champions as a public school, “I don’t want to call the win just for us, it’s a win for DCPS,” added coach Mateo. “All of DCPS won today.” After winning a state title in his first year as head coach he said, “I just do it for the guys, I have a family here, I have a great team that fights for each other.” 

Rosario, who played in the state championship with a separated left shoulder, leaves his magical moment with two words: “God Did.”

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About the Contributor
Justin Glenn
Justin Glenn, 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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    Coach GoreMay 20, 2024 at 5:57 am

    Congratulations Coach Robinson and all the Tigers!!! Way to keep fighting and believing. Well done team!

    Reply