Thomas Jefferson bounces back from 1st loss with big win over West Mifflin

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | 10:25 PM

The one thing that the section series does in WPIAL baseball is test the mettle of the team that loses the first game, especially late in the season when the stakes are high.

Following his team’s first loss of the season Monday, Thomas Jefferson coach Tim Vickers learned something about his team Tuesday.

The Jaguars have bounce-back ability.

Responding to an 8-5 home loss to rival West Mifflin a day earlier, Thomas Jefferson came out throwing haymakers, pounding the Titans early and often in a one-sided victory, 11-1 in six innings.

“Our guys have been talking about that all year,” Vickers said. “That Monday loss is so hard to recover from. We talked after (Monday), what are our goals for the team, and they went through them one by one and it got back to, ‘Let’s reset.’ At no point in time this season did we say we were going to go undefeated for the year.”

The Jaguars showed their resiliency early and often against Titans starting pitcher Jake Martina in the first inning.

Singles by Noah Kaszar, Alec Warden and Elias Lippincott, a hit batter of Tyler Lesko and a double by Carter Kirsch led to a five-run first inning for TJ.

“We saw the ball well in the first inning and things kind of took off from there,” Vickers said.

After threatening and not scoring in the second inning, the Jaguars doubled their lead with a five-run third inning that was a tad sloppy by the usually fundamentally strong Titans.

Lippincott and Kirsch singled to lead off the inning, then two outs later, senior Ethan Steinmetz delivered an RBI single with Kirsch coming around to score of an additional Titans error on the play.

Kaszar walked and Luke Kosko smacked a two-run double. Kosko later scored on another West Mifflin defensive miscue to give the Jaguars a commanding 10-0 lead.

“That was a stinker,” West Mifflin coach Jeff Kuzma said after his team’s first section loss and their second loss of the season. “We were outcoached and obviously outplayed. We did very little right out there.”

The Titans have had a reputation of doing things different since winning the WPIAL Class 4A championship two years ago. However, every time they zigged on Tuesday, the Jaguars emphatically zagged.

“I give the West Mifflin staff a lot of credit,” Vickers said. “All these years, the many things they do that has now evolved into the shifting, they do an excellent job of scouting. I thought our guys did a good job of staying within themselves. We’re not going to try to aim balls to where they’re not. Just hit the ball and barrel something and hopefully things go the way they want.”

The only West Mifflin run came in the bottom of the third inning when Jake Cannon walked, went to second on an infield single by Jayvon Thompson, then to third on a throwing error on the play. Cannon scored on an around-the-horn double-play ball.

Thomas Jefferson starting pitcher J.J. Siemen was rock solid, allowing only five hits in six innings with two walks, one hit batter and two strikeouts.

“It was exactly what we needed,” Vickers said of Siemen’s performance. “He told me earlier he felt great and he couldn’t wait to help his team out. His off speed was working, he had command, and he delivered when his team needed it the most.”

Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin have both clinched a playoff spot and are deadlocked for first place in Section 3-4A with 7-1 records, one game ahead of Chartiers Valley.

The Titans end section play next Monday and Tuesday with away and home games against the Colts, who tiey tied for the section title a year ago.

“We will refocus, regroup and be ready for a good Chartiers Valley team next week,” Kuzma said.

The Jaguars conclude their section schedule Monday and Tuesday with a home and away series against winless Woodland Hills.

“We’re in a pretty good spot, but there is a lot of work that needs done,” Vickers said. “We’ve qualified for the playoffs and in the playoffs, anything can happen.”

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