TJ closes in on baseball title
Senior recognition games are intended to provide high school athletes with one final chance to shine before a hometown crowd in their particular sport of choice.
Excuse Thomas Jefferson sophomore Greg Schneider, though, if he again couldn't wait until his final season as a member of coach Rich Krivanek's Jaguars baseball team to get into a season-ending celebratory spirit.
Schneider tormented visiting Section 4-AAA foe South Park for the second straight season Wednesday by collecting a pair of two-RBI triples before scoring a pair of additional runs to lead TJ to an 8-2 senior recognition game victory.
Only one year earlier, Schneider kicked off the Jaguars' 2009 senior day festivities by pitching his first career no-hitter against the Eagles in the first game of a doubleheader, which was concluded with a rain-shortened contest against rival Elizabeth Forward.
"We just came out and we weren't looking so good," Schneider said following his 3-for-3 performance, which also included a first-inning single. "A couple people stepped up. We sort of got into it and we started hitting better. We came together, pulled it through."
For Section 4-AAA first-place TJ (12-6, 11-1), the victory over South Park (6-11, 5-8) also provided a fitting send-off for senior pitcher Frank Szubra.
After conceding a run in the top of the first inning when Nick Yobbi struck a sacrifice fly to left field to hand the Eagles a 1-0 lead, Szubra rebounded and was virtually untouchable over the remainder of his outing to pick up the mound win and improve to 5-1 on the season.
In five innings of work, Szubra allowed one run on four hits with four strikeouts, two walks and one hit batter. He allowed only two hits and stranded four runners on base following the first inning.
"He came out throwing strikes," Krivanek said of Szubra. "I know today was a big day for him. It was emotional, so for him to come out and pitch like that was really impressive. He's been doing it for us all year, so I wasn't really surprised. He's been a leader."
For Szubra, the key against South Park was locating his fastball for strikes on a day when his curveball, slider and change-up pitches lacked their usual effectiveness.
"I love being out there, being able to fire up my team," Szubra, who was also 2-for-3 with a walk at the plate, said. "I love being able to try and lead the best I can and it's just a great feeling. I've got a great team behind me. A great bunch of guys."
Those teammates provided all the run support Szubra would need in the second inning.
With one out, senior Ed Hasis and sophomore Rocky Marcheleta provided consecutive singles against South Park starting pitcher Christopher Winkler.
Schneider then blasted his first triple of the game off of the left field fence and came around to score when Eagles left fielder Braydan Benedetti's throw toward home plate soared out of play.
The Jaguars added on to their 3-1 lead with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Schneider drove in two more runs with his second triple of the game to initiate the scoring and then scored on a wild pitch.
Catcher Tyler Toboz then blasted a two-run homer to chase Winkler from the game and make the TJ lead 8-1.
"We responded real well," Krivanek said. "A couple big hits woke us up a little bit and we rolled from there. That's sort of what we've been doing all year."
Winkler picked up the loss for South Park after working 3 2/3 innings. He allowed eight runs, six earned, on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
South Park scored its second run of the game against Jaguars reliever Brian Schmidt in the sixth inning. The unearned run came around to score on Carter Grote's two-out single.
Designated hitter Patrick Bradshaw was 3-for-3 to lead the Eagles effort at the plate.
TJ returns to action on Friday with a trip to face rival Elizabeth Forward (14-4, 9-3) at Wylie Field. First pitch is set for 3:45 p.m.
If the first-place Jaguars are able to defeat the Warriors they will capture TJ's first outright section title since 1987.
"I know it's been a long time since this school's seen an outright section title," Krivanek said of his program that shared section crowns in 2007 and 1989. "It'd be nice to get it for them."