The East Jessamine baseball program started a new season and a new era this spring.
Kevin Clary, who was hired in June, coached the Jaguars to a win in his first game at East. The Jags defeated Model 3-1.
Clary said he was pleased with East’s first outing but admitted the team may have had a bit of first-game jitters.
“I was pleased overall,” he said. “Our effort was good; our energy was good. We talk about the three E’s all the time: energy, enthusiasm and effort. And I thought they played with a high level of all of them.”
The Patriots (0-1) and Jaguars (1-1) were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first four and a half innings before Mike Jones drove in Jarryd Settles on a ground ball to second base to give East a 1-0 lead.
A two-out double by senior Kyle Peel (the team’s only senior) made it a 2-0 game. Jacob Overstreet beat out an infield single to score Jones and cap East’s three-run frame.
“We didn’t leave runners stranded (in the fifth inning). The one thing that disappointed me today was our baserunning; we made several silly baserunning mistakes, and we preach that we’re going to make the defense earn 21 outs, and we gave them three or four easy outs because of bad decisions,” Clary said.
East had a runner picked off first base in the first inning and had two runners tagged out going to third base unforced in the fourth and sixth innings.
It took East and Model a few innings to get going offensively. Part of that can be attributed to first-game nerves.
“I expected it, to be honest with you,” Clary said.
Sophomore hurler Sam Hall, who took the opening-day start, was solid through five and two-thirds innings. With two down in the sixth, he gave up a single to left field and followed with a walk. Cody Eschrish was brought on in relief. He allowed a run to score but got out of the inning without allowing any more damage.
“For the first time out, I thought Sam Hall was outstanding,” Clary said. “He kept his pitch count down (78 pitches). Cody came in right behind him and closed the deal out for us. His command was pretty good, too.”
East lost to Harrison County 11-0 on Tuesday.
The season ahead
East Jessamine is coming off of an 18-18 season that included late-season controversy off the field and an early exit in the district tournament on the field.
Kevin Clary takes over the program touting an impressive baseball career that includes two state championships (2009, Lexington Catholic head coach; 2006, Lexington Catholic assistant coach) and was KHSBCA 2009 coach of the year.
“(Thus far the season has been) unbelievable. They’ve welcomed me with open arms. The boys have worked harder than any group I’ve ever coached,” Clary said. “The attention span has been unbelievable.
They’ve showed up to work every day. The commitment level is outstanding, and they’re a joy to work with. It’s far exceeded my expectations.”
East Jessamine has high expectations for this season and hasn’t shied away from challenging themselves early and often throughout the season. The Jaguars will play in several different tournaments through out the season, including the USA Classic in Memphis, Tenn., during spring break. The Jags will also face tough competition in regular-season games against Louisville-Male, Harrison County and Dunbar.
“Everywhere I’ve been, it’s been my motto that you don’t learn anything playing bad competition. I would rather play, to borrow a basketball phrase, ‘a good RPI schedule,’ because it will get us tournament ready,” Clary said. “That’s what the whole goal is, to be ready in May.”
The Jaguars lost three seniors from last year’s team and have just one senior on this year’s squad — Kyle Peel.
Clary said the leaders of the team have yet to step up. Part of this is because of having a lot of youth. In addition to the one senior, East has nine juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen.
“We don’t have that vocal leader yet, but a lot of guys lead by example,” Clary said.
While East seemed to have a pretty solid lineup on the field Monday night, nothing is set in stone. Clary said he does not judge on first impressions and he will try to give everyone an opportunity to show him what they can do in the first couple of weeks.
East will thrive off its chemistry this season. Although the Jags are young, they are a close-knit group who really like each other — “that’s a lethal combination,” Clary said.
The Jags are also very versatile and have players who can deliver in several positions.
“I feel comfortable playing a lot of my guys in different positions,” Clary said.
However, East is still lacking a No. 1 starter that can be depended on to take the mound for the big games and deliver a lock-down performance. Developing starting pitching will be a primary task for East this season.
East Jessamine has 31 scheduled games this season in addition to a week’s worth at the USA Classic and a couple other tournaments.