Thomas Jefferson baseball team reflects on 2024 season

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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | 9:50 AM


Thomas Jefferson’s baseball team started out 12-0 this year and ended the regular season with a 17-2 overall record.

The Jaguars were ranked No. 2 in Class 4A and received the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL playoffs.

After defeating No. 15 Ringgold, 11-3, and No. 7 Chartiers Valley, 4-3, TJ was upset by No. 6 North Catholic, 12-4, in the semifinal round. That was followed by a 3-2 loss to No. 4 Montour in the third-place consolation game.

“I’m proud of the team and their record during the regular season,” TJ coach Tim Vickers said. “They earned the high seed they received in the WPIAL playoffs. Unfortunately, we had to go to J.J. Siemon (against CV) in the quarterfinals. We wanted to get him out of the game before the 25-pitch count but couldn’t. We had to win to move on.

“The loss against North Catholic was brutal for all of us.”

Alec Warden, a senior shortstop and Penn State recruit, went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI against Ringgold and smashed a three-run homer in the loss to North Catholic.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Warden said. “It’s unfortunate how it worked out, but that’s baseball and we’ll bounce back. I couldn’t be happier with our team’s performance throughout the season. I thought we played our best baseball all year-round.

“From top to bottom, our lineup produced on a very high level even though we took a tough loss in the semifinals. I think our bond as a team will help us.”

The Jaguars edged No. 7 Chartiers Valley in a nail-biter as junior left fielder Noah Kaszer doubled and scored on junior first baseman Tyler Lesko’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. Brady McGough, a senior third baseman, went 2 for 3 with three RBIs for the Jaguars.

TJ players regularly in the starting lineup in 2024 included Warden, Kaszer, Lesko, McGough, senior right fielder Elias Lippincott, senior second baseman Ethan Steinmetz, junior catcher Carter Kirsch, junior center fielder Luke Kosko, senior DH/OF Brady Hodge and senior pitcher/infielder J.J. Siemon.

The Jaguars had four .400 hitters in the lineup: Warden (.449), Kaszer (.439), Lesko (.426) and Kirsch (.400).

Warden scored 33 times and drove in 33 runs. Kirsch racked up 26 RBIs and scored 17 runs. Lesko had 17 RBIs and Kaszer scored 20 times.

Steinmetz is a Pitt-Greensburg recruit, McGough is committed to Point Park and Lippincott plans to attend a prep school in Florida for a year.

Siemon, a West Virginia Wesleyan commit, led an experienced pitching rotation that also included Lippincott and two top sophomores, Colin Pearson and Dom Metz.

Siemon posted an 8-0 record against WPIAL opponents. Lippincott registered 44 strikeouts in 34 innings

“Obviously, the playoffs didn’t end the way we wanted,” Siemon said, “but I was happy with how our team performed overall throughout the season. North Catholic was a solid team and we were short on pitching and the playoffs just ended in an unfortunate way.”

TJ lost an 11-4 decision to East Pennsboro in the PIAA first round to end up 19-5 overall. East Pennsboro improved to 20-2.

Lippincott had three hits for the Jaguars. Kaszer and Kosko each had two hits and an RBI.

TJ finished with an 8-12 record in 2023. But with eight returning starters, the Jaguars were ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A preseason by Trib HSSN.

Warden (SS), Lippincott (RF), Lesko (P/DH), Kirsch (3B), McGough (LF), Siemon (1B), Steinmetz (2B) and Aidan Whalen (CF) all were returning starters, although Whalen sat out the season recovering from a torn labrum.

Seniors Sam Winters, Wyatt Janosko and Mauro Salimbene added outfield depth, and C/INF Josh Chalovich was a top freshman prospect on this year’s club.

“I thought we’d be pretty solid,” Vickers said. “This team had 10 seniors, many of whom got their first varsity experience last season. With one year under their belts and a desire to go further than last year, I thought we’d be a little better this year.”

Lesko suffered an UCL injury last year and didn’t return to 100% capacity until the second half of the season.

“We were looking forward to getting Ty back on the mound,” Vickers said.

Lesko said he was confident the Jaguars would have a good season from the outset.

“We knew from winter training that we would be dangerous,” he said. “Not only was our lineup strong one through nine, our pitchers were lights-out.”

TJ tied for first with West Mifflin in Section 3 with a 9-1 record and was the highest-scoring club in Class 4A with 189 runs, an average of 8.2 per game.

“I think the main reason for our recent success is our ability to compete while not being selfish,” Warden said. “Going back to the offseason, our entire pitching staff had been competing against our starting lineup for months.

“Obviously, these at-bats in the offseason mean nothing, but each one of us finds a way to make it competitive. I think this is one of the biggest factors, if not the biggest, to our success. Our pitching staff has been unbelievable and the ability to compete was there for every person in our lineup.”

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