They waited months for this opportunity. Thus, six days more will probably be nothing for Jefferson Township baseball.
The team’s Last Dance World Series exploits finally continue on Tuesday morning, as the artists normally known as the Falcons will move on to the tournament’s knockout playoff round in the North region. Proceedings will return to Skylands Stadium and first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. It’s likely they’ll take on Bridgewater-Raritan, who is currently posted in Skylands’ Tuesday morning after winning their regional with wins over Bernards and Somerville.
Jefferson put themselves in a position to advance with a pair of shutout victories in the Upper Morris regional at Skylands. A narrow one-run win over Randolph last Tuesday was followed by an 11-0 drubbing of Roxbury a day later.
“Just to be together for a couple of games has been really awesome. I’m so happy for (our players,” Jefferson head coach Jason Kalish said after the latter win. “We have a ton of depth. It’s different guys each game. (On Tuesday) we won a pitchers’ duel and (on Wednesday) we brought the bats.”
The Tuesday morning resumption will finally end a roller-coaster journey to the knockout round for Jefferson. Their schedule has undergone frequent cancellations and reconfiguration after the triumph over Roxbury. Jefferson was originally set to take on Sussex Red (Sussex regional winner and a crossover team consisting of student-athletes from High Point and Wallkill) at Skylands last Thursday night.
A threat of storms moved the original Thursday contest to the weekend, but a Sussex Red competitor was revealed to have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The player himself tested negative, but it led to Sussex Red’s departure from the tournament in the name of caution. Jefferson was originally set to play Deptford in a play-in game at St Joseph High School (Metuchen) but sources have since confirmed that they will now play on Tuesday at the home of the Sussex County Miners.
Kalish told The Jefferson Chronicle that the changing situation won’t have any effect on his squad, which has been overjoyed to return to the practice field after months apart.
“Nothing changes on our end with our opponent,” Kalish said. “We are going to go and have a great time playing baseball. We have some competitors in our program who are going to leave it all on the field and hopefully we can extend our run.”
The Last Dance World Series was created by St. Joseph baseball coach and athletic director Mike Murray Jr. in an attempt to give the state’s senior baseball players a final opportunity to take the field after their spring season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferson’s seasoned veterans have risen to the occasion in the early going. Johnny Knox had the only hits, scored the only run, and earned the save in Tuesday’s win over Randolph while a seven-run barrage in the top of the first set up Jack Urbano’s complete-game shutout, one that ended early due to the tournament’s 10-run-lead mercy rule.
Kalish’s plan after Wednesday was to use Knox and junior Matt Lemieux in the Thursday matchup, though the delay could make senior star Zach Roskowsky available against Bridgewater-Raritan. The County College of Morris-bound right-hander threw 5⅓ innings of one-hit ball against Randolph.
Follow all of Geoff’s Jefferson updates from the Last Dance on Twitter @GeoffJMags