St. Jerome Jaguars finish baseball season undefeated
This year, the 2014 St. Jerome Jaguars rookie baseball team accomplished something even I, their head coach, didn’t see coming: an undefeated season.
After going 2-7-1 in 2013, I thought a winning season was a legitimate goal. Though I knew we’d improve, I didn’t even think about finishing 10-0. But by the time the season wrapped up on June 7, we had run away from our competition, outscoring them 130-25.
St. Jerome competes in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), part of the Archdiocese of Washington. Our games are against parishes from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. The Rookie League features machine pitching and has no playoffs.
My team of 14 boys, all 10 and under, included 11 students from St. Jerome Academy, a home-schooler, and two players from St. Joseph in Beltsville, which didn’t field a team. The parental support was outstanding.
We played our first two games at St. Bernadette in Silver Spring, and won handily, 16-2 and 19-7.
Our third-base coach, Jeff Kaelin, made an astute observation after our first victory: “We’re not going to score that many runs each game,” he said, “but [if we lose a game] we’re not going to beat ourselves [by making fielding errors]. Our defense is too good for that.”
Strong defense was a hallmark of the Jaguars. Our principal infielders were George Currie (first base); Tyler McManes and Isaiah Blattner (second); Evan Cantelas (third); Christopher Kaelin and Alex Tirador (shortstop); and Robert Matera and Rookie of the Year Liam Burgoyne (pitcher).
Twice we didn’t allow a baserunner until the next-to-last inning. During our third victory against a host St. Bernadette squad, I overheard their head coach tell one of his assistants, “That’s the best fielding team I’ve seen all year.”
We also showed how much depth we had in two wins without our Most Valuable Players, Christopher Kaelin and center fielder Tyler Pulik.
Our closest game of the year was a 1-0 victory over St. Jane de Chantal. Neither team was hitting well because the pitching machine was erratic. We won it with two outs on our last at-bat when Pulik beat a throw to second, allowing the winning run to score from third.
Our most dominating performance came at St. Pius X on their field in Bowie. Three times we scored the maximum number of runs allowed per inning (six) en route to a 28-0 victory. Their coaches thanked assistant coach Kaelin after the game for holding runners at third base.
We headed into our final game with the chance to complete our dream season. We were only leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth when Pulik hit a two-run home run. We scored four more times in the sixth to win 7-1 and finish with a perfect record.
I was truly blessed to coach such fine young men, whose play gave glory to God and brought smiles to a lot of people in Hyattsville.
Chris McManes has coached youth sports in Hyattsville since 2005 and has lived here since 2002.