Jays Are the Champions of District 9-5A
Jesuit Conquers Brother Martin, 9-3, to Remain Undefeated in Second Round of District Competition
Jesuit’s Brandon Briuglio more than survived a nerve-rattling three-run homer in the first inning of the Jays’ game against Brother Martin Thursday evening at UNO’s Privateer Park. If anything, the junior right-hander excelled for the next five innings after his one big faux pas in the opening frame.
“Brigs” gave up a walk and a single in the Crusaders’ first at-bat, but the Jays had two outs. Then Brigs was supposed to throw his curve in the dirt, but he missed and the ball stayed belt-high. And belt the Crusader did.
“The guy hit the daylights out of it,” said Coach Joey Latino of the explosive home run over the left field fence (330 feet) that scored a trio of runs. “That young man hit it, and he hit it well. When you get hit in the mouth like that in the first inning and you’re facing a good pitcher, it can be a little dicey. But I thought the boys stayed calm, they kept their composure. Brandon settled in and commanded the strike zone with both of his pitches. Our offense came around against a very good pitcher.”
Over the next five full innings, Brigs, who anchors second base when he’s not on the mound, pitched a one-hit shutout. Oblivious to the cacophony of loud sound effects emanating from the stadium’s audio system between pitches – a trend almost as obnoxious as constant spam from e-marketers who want you to lose the flab – Brigs was relaxed, focused, and unruffled, a picture of cool composure. In silencing the bats of the Crusaders for the rest of the game, Brigs struck out seven batters. After six innings of throwing, the kid retired to the Blue Jay dugout where “Doc” (as in Joe Licciardi ’53) prescribed instant relief with a shoulder ice pack.
“I kept the ball lower in the zone and the offense came out and got some runs for me and gave me some confidence to go out there and do my job,” said Briuglio, who improved his record to 4-2. “Our coaches gave me support and told me to forget about it. I came back, kept the ball down and did my job.”
And he never gave the Crusader home run another thought.
Mason Mayfield, whose appearances on the mound have been few and brief this season, was summoned in the bottom of the seventh to dispatch the final three Crusader batters. Mayfield showed he has the right stuff by whiffing all three batters on just 10 pitches, a pretty explosive achievement for the junior right-hander whose confidence level received a huge and much-needed boost.
Beginning in the third inning those Blue & White bats woke up and the Jays scratched and clawed for two runs on five hits. In the fourth inning, the Jays had two outs and nobody on base when designated hitter Jake Licciardi stepped up to the plate and whacked a fast ball over the left field fence to tie the game 3-3. The towering solo home run — landing in about the same location as a Crusader’s two innings earlier — was Licciardi’s first and undoubtedly not the last one that Jesuit fans will see from this junior first baseman.
“I’m so happy for Jake,” said Coach Latino, adding that the homer energized the Blue Jays. “Earlier in the season Jake was getting some DH time, and shuffling in and out with three or four different guys in that spot. I just had a gut and put him in there tonight. I told him to relax and enjoy it, and let his hands do the work, and he certainly did.”
In the fifth inning, left fielder Scott Crabtree hit a bases loaded double that scored two runs and third baseman Hayden Fuentes followed up with a double that scored Crabtree and first baseman Dan Edmund. In the top of the seventh with two Jays on base, Crabtree hit his second double of the night, scoring Ben Hess from third base and Stephen Sepcich from second.
Coach Latino said Crabtree’s two doubles were big. “Crab’s a good hitter and when you make a mistake to him, he’s going to make you pay for it,” he said.
Five Blue Jays accounted for 10 of the team’s 12 hits. Shortstop Alex Galy, first baseman Dan Edmund, and right fielder Ben Hess each had two singles. Catcher Trent Forshag had a single and a double. Crabtree’s two doubles produced four RBIs while Fuentes’s double yielded a pair of RBIs. And then there was Licciardi’s home run.
The Blue Jays, outright champions of District 9-5A, enter the playoffs, which begin next Tuesday (April 28), with a 24-7 overall record, and 8-2 in district play. Jesuit’s two district losses (to Rummel and Holy Cross) were in the first round. The Jays were undefeated in second round action. Jesuit scored a total of 66 runs against district opponents St. Augustine, Archbishop Rummel, Brother Martin, Holy Cross, and Archbishop Shaw while holding the opposition to 25 runs.
“I’m very excited for the boys,” said Coach Latino. “It’s been two years and it’s nice to get the district championship back to the school. I’m happy for the Jesuit community, the school, and especially these boys.”
After the game, the Jays were walking to their bus, but it was a slow trip moving through the throng of their faithful fans who were full of congratulations. The Blue Jays didn’t mind.