Jays Experience a Close Encounter of the Third Kind Via a Wicked Slider
Jesuit Drops Its Third District Game by One Run in a 2-1 Loss to Brother Martin
The Blue Jays always have a game plan, especially a sharpened one against the significant competition of District 9-5A, such as Tuesday night’s contest between Jesuit and crosstown rival Brother Martin.
Jesuit’s game plan was simple, and Coach Joey Latino was the first to admit his team pretty much stuck to it: hit fastballs early in the count and avoid the wicked little slider thrown by the Crusaders’ starting pitcher Blair Frederick. The slider is a type of fast pitch with a slight curve in the opposite direction of the throwing arm.
Whatever the game plan was for Brother Martin, it most likely was similar to Jesuit’s in that the Crusaders would be facing the Blue Jays’ starting ace, Mason Mayfield, whose own “pitcher’s pitch” is a cutter, a fastball with lateral movement. A cutter, sometimes called a “cut fastball,” is similar to a slider, which is more notable for its speed than its lateral movement.
A few hundred prep baseball fans at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium for Tuesday night’s game were treated to a couple of exceptional pitching performances, courtesy of Jesuit’s Mayfield and Brother Martin’s Frederick.
Both teams were playing the final game of round one competition. Both teams sported identical 3-2 district records coming in to Kirsch-Rooney.
In the opening inning, the Jays carried solid bats. Shortstop Nick Ray gave his teammates a shot of adrenalin when he smacked the first pitch for a leadoff single. A throwing error by the Crusaders allowed Ray to continue to second base. Second baseman Brandon Briuglio’s sacrifice fly to right field advanced Ray to third base. Austin North worked the Crusaders’ pitcher nicely. However, on the payoff throw (a 3-2 count), the left fielder (and at times the team’s designated hitter) was caught looking at a Gentilly slider.
“He’s got a good slider,” Coach Latino said in reference to the Crusaders’ pitcher. “When he needed it, he threw it. And every time he needed to make a big pitch, he went to it.”
North was the first of 11 Jays who struck out, most of whom went down swinging at sliders. A few, including North for one at-bat, were caught looking and were punched out by the home plate umpire.
With two away, Hayden Fuentes, the Jays’ cleanup hitter (and part time pitcher) jumped on an early pitch, sending a fastball up the middle for a single and easily plating Ray from third.
The joyfulness gushing from the Blue & White section of the grandstand — and the spirit spilling in the Jays’ dugout — were at season highs. Such strong reactions and displays of emotion should come as no surprise to those familiar with the keen competitiveness and staunch rivalry between the two schools. It is a rivalry that is cultured as much as it is ribald.
With Fuentes on first base and two away, right fielder Connor Maginnis put the hurt on another early fastball, hitting a line drive to the gap in right-center field. The stand-up double for Maginnis was the Jays’ third hit in the opening inning.
The moment Maginnis connected with the ball, Fuentes was off to the races, rounding second base at full sprint. When Fuentes neared third base, he was given the green light to go home. Yes, for Jesuit baseball fans, this would be the second game in a row involving Fuentes in a close call at home plate. Against Shaw last Saturday, Fuentes slugged an easy triple and got the green light to go home. There are not many inside-John Ryan Stadium-home runs. And, yes indeed, it was a very close call at the plate for Fuentes in the Shaw game.
As Fuentes made like a railroad towards home, the relay throw to the Crusaders’ catcher was near perfect. Fuentes could see what was about to happen and he tried mightily to put up that second run in the first inning. Instead, he got tagged at the plate to end the inning.
For Mayfield and his defense behind him, the first two innings were three-up, three-down frames. In the bottom of the third, the Crusaders nicked Mayfield for their first hit, a single. Ground balls to the infield netted the Jays two outs but advanced the Crusader runner to third base. The next batter hit a double that tied the score, 1-1. The Crusaders got a third hit in the inning, a single. Mark Beebe caught a fly ball in center field to end the inning, stranding two Crusaders.
“We had opportunities here and there,” said Coach Latino. “But we didn’t generate a whole lot of opportunities.”
The Jays had one such opportunity in the fifth inning when Chance Melancon, pinch hitting for catcher Josh Schmidt, singled to right field. The Jays tried to pull off a sacrifice bunt, but it failed. Melancon advanced to second base only when Nick Ray posted his second single of the night. However, the inning ended with both players stranded. The Jays were down to their final six outs.
In the sixth inning, Brother Martin scored the go-ahead, and soon-to-be the winning run. Mayfield walked only one batter the entire game, and it was the leadoff hitter in the sixth. A successful sacrifice bunt advanced the runner to second base. That’s when Frederick helped his own cause, popping a sharp grounder just to the right of the second base bag and past a diving Brandon Briuglio. The single to center field scored the Crusader on second base standing up.
As the Crusaders whooped it up in the stands and the dugout, you could feel the wind being sucked right out of the Jays and their fans.
The Jays still had the seventh inning to do something. Unfortunately, something did happen: three Blue Jays struck out to end the game.
“I thought the key was that Brother Martin executed the bunt in the sixth inning and we didn’t,” said Coach Joey Latino. “We had a chance to execute a bunt in the fifth inning and get a guy in scoring position with one out. We couldn’t do it. The leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth for the Crusaders, followed by the execution of the bunt, set the table for Frederick’s hit. You got to tip your hat to that kid. He not only pitched an outstanding game, he got the key hit as well.”
Jesuit’s first district game, against John Curtis, ended in a 1-0 shutout. The other loss was to Holy Cross, 4-3. And now, dropping one to Brother Martin, 2-1, gives the Jays a 3-3 district record while the Crusaders improve to 4-2. Their two losses in the first round were to Rummel (3-1) and Holy Cross (11-0)
Mayfield pitched a complete six innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out three Crusaders. The loss was Mayfield’s second against three wins this season.
“I told the players we got three district losses by a total of three runs and that’s hard to do,” Coach Latino said in a post-game interview with sports reporter Darrell Williams of The New Orleans Advocate. “Every district loss has been by one run. What we’re going to do is go back to work and get ready for Friday’s game against Rummel. And we play Brother Martin again on Saturday. So there’s no time to pout and feel sorry for yourself, just get back to work.”
When Williams noted that the Jays had seven hits to just four for the Crusaders, Coach Latino replied, “Yeah, too bad the hit column doesn’t win you the game.”
The Blue Jays return to Kirsch-Rooney on Friday, April 8, to play Rummel as the second round of district action gets underway. First pitch is 7 p.m. In the first round, the Jays beat the Raiders, 4-1, at John Ryan Stadium.
The rematch with Brother Martin on Saturday, April 9, moves over to John Ryan Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m. for that game as well.
Jesuit’s overall record is 17-7, which includes a win and a loss to two out-of-state teams. The power ratings for Louisiana’s prep baseball teams are based only on games played against in-state opponents. With that being the case, Jesuit’s overall record of 16-6 is used to determine the Jays’ power rating. Currently, Jesuit is rated #6 among Class 5A teams.
The New Orleans Advocate: Brother Martin pitcher Blair Frederick shines on mound, collects key hit in 2-1 victory over Jesuit