Myrtle Beach trip serves as bonding experience for TJ baseball, softball squads
It’s become an annual rite of spring.
Members of the Thomas Jefferson baseball and softball programs have opened their seasons at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach since 2014.
And what an opening statement made by the TJ softball team this year.
The Lady Jaguars opened their 2016 season with a doubleheader against North Bergen (N.J.) and Perry (Ohio), and won both games. TJ routed North Bergen, 17-1, before edging Perry, 6-5.
Rachael Bowers, a senior shortstop, went 4 for 4 with four RBIs and scored four runs to lead the Lady Jaguars to their impressive season-opening victory.
“This (trip) was one of the most memorable weeks of my life,” Bowers said. “As the season keeps moving forward, I feel like time is flying by. I’m loving every minute and all the memories we get to share.
“The most memorable thing I took from my Ripken Experience is it doesn’t matter who or what knocks you down, if you have a support system behind you, you will succeed. Most of the seniors have been playing (together) since T-ball. It’s crazy to think it was my last trip with my girls, but their support, friendship and memories will stay with me always. I can’t wait to take on the rest of this season with them. We are determined to go out with a bang.”
The Lady Jaguars exploded out of the gate this year. Emily Scheidter, a senior first baseman, and Lindsay Kalup, a junior outfielder/third baseman, clicked for three hits apiece against North Bergen.
“Being it was my last spring training of my high school career made it very memorable for me,” Scheidter said. “TJ softball is more then ready to take on this season (at) 110 percent. There are no words to explain how lucky I am to end my high school career with the girls I started my softball career out with.
“One amazing thing that I’ve gained from this team that I will never lose is (it is) a family of sisters. I can honestly say I’ve never played on a team where everyone shared the same love and passion for the game. Winning is good, but its not just winning. It’s working through the errors, the strikeouts, the injuries, and being able to have a family of sisters behind you through it all. Those are the memories that will stick with you forever.”
Following the doubleheader sweep, the the Lady Jaguars defeated St. John Villa Academy (N.Y.) by a 10-1 score.
“The most memorable part of this year’s trip was having an amazing week with my friends,” said Megan Fitzgerald, a senior second baseman. “It really brought the team together. I love this team. We are ready for a WPIAL run.”
Senior Laci Lautner and junior Alysa Fairman were the winning pitchers for TJ.
“My most memorable moment at Ripken was really pushing myself and the team to (our) fullest potential,” Lautner said. “I have so much faith in my fielders (that) if I give up a hit I know they will make the play. We have so much communication on the team.
“Something funny to add is when we were warming up for a game, we were hitting in the cage and I snapped my bat in two pieces. It was the best, yet worst, thing that could happen on the trip.”
Overall, the Lady Jaguars, who also dropped a 3-0 decision to Deer Lakes last week, were led offensively at the Ripken Experience by Bowers, Scheidter, Kalup and junior outfielder Sydney Flinn.
“My most memorable part of Myrtle Beach was (being) on the field with my team for the last spring training trip of my high school career,” Bayli Moon, a senior center fielder, said.
“I wouldn’t want to spend my last year with any other group of girls. We had a great run (in Myrtle Beach); it was a great start to the season.”
Jaguars off to a slow start this spring
Thomas Jefferson’s baseball team was forced to take a different approach at the Ripken Experience.
The Jaguars started out with 11-6 and 12-2 losses to North Hills and Williamsport, respectively, before thrashing Morgantown (W.V.), 12-5.
“We had a hard time during our first couple of games,” Kolton Karwowski, a senior outfielder, said. “But by the end of the trip, we had all found our groove and we connected as a team.”
Luke Warhola, a sophomore infielder/outfielder, punched out two hits in the win over Morgantown. David Mack, Karwowski, Adam Pierce, Ian Logue, Zane Zandier, A.J. Putignano, Kevin Rehak, Lorenzo Sauro, Garret Fairman, Brad Dadig and Julian Metro contributed one hit apiece.
“The most memorable part of the trip was getting that first win,” said Metro, a senior infielder. “We all just came together after two hard losses and proved to ourselves that we have a good team.”
Luke Galioto, a senior pitcher/shortstop who hit .389 a year ago, looked forward to the Jaguars’ spring training session.
“It was great to get back on the field after a long offseason,” Galioto said. “We grew a lot as a team, on and off the field.”
The Jaguars returned home and clipped Trinity, 3-1, last week in a night game at Consol Energy Park.
Junior Ian Logue was the winning pitcher, allowing one unearned run in five innings of work. Mack picked up a save with two scoreless innings in relief.
“Coming together as one unit really made the trip memorable,” said Mack, a senior pitcher/second baseman. “Other than that, just getting out there and playing baseball makes any trip memorable.”
Dadig, a senior infielder/outfielder, agreed. He said the most significant part of the trip was “getting to play ball down south one last time with my best friends. We were blessed with great weather, and it was an awesome way to start the season.”
Pierce, a senior center fielder, enjoyed the ocean views and landscape.
“Besides the beach, the best part was being together with the team and preparing for a long season ahead of us,” Pierce said.
The Jaguars were scheduled to open Section 4-AAA play earlier this week versus Laurel Highlands and Ringgold. They also are slated to host Elizabeth Forward on Friday, and South Park on Monday.
“We have one of the toughest sections in triple-A,” Dadig said, “but we expect nothing less than to compete for the section title and make a deep run in the WPIAL playoffs. We have the talent to do it.”
The Jaguars, who also lost to Bethel Park (10-0 ) and Chartiers Valley (10-1) in nonsection action last week, finished 5-9 in league play and 9-11 overall last year.
“We could make a run in our section,” Karwowski said. “We have some strong bats in our lineup.
“Expect to see some fireworks.”
Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.