Jefferson City caps historic season with state final appearance
O'FALLON - The last time Jefferson City won a State Championship in baseball, Missouri softball head coach Ehren Earleywine was the team captain for the 1989 Jays.
27 years later, the Jays ended their season at Carshield Field as the runners-up in Class 5, dropping the title game to Francis Howell, 8-2. Despite the loss, the 2016 season will go down as one of the best in school history for Jeffeson City. The Jays end the season at 28-7, shattering the previous single-season record of 23 wins in 1987 and 1997.
"To come out here and experience the Final Four experience, and get to the state championship, we accomplished everything that we wanted to." said Jefferson City head coach Brian Ash. "Just didn't finish it off the way we wanted."
After dropping a game to Lee's Summit West 11-2 on April 16, the Jays went 9-1 in their next 10 games en route to the District 9 championship game. There, they met Rock Bridge for the third year in a row. The Bruins had knocked the Jays out of the playoffs the previous two seasons.
Jefferson City went on to beat Rock Bridge 6-1 at Battle High School in May, clinching its first District title since 2008.
"That was our first hurdle, to get through the district championship." Ash said. "And now to be here in this position, and an opportunity to win a state title for this town. We're excited to represent the central Missouri area."
The Jays cruised past Willard and Nixa in the sectional and quarterfinal rounds, respectively, to punch their ticket to the Class 5 Final Four, their first since 1992. Jefferson City drew Lindbergh in the first semifinal game.
The Flyers scored four runs off Jays junior starter Jacob Weirich in the first inning to jump out to an early lead, but Jefferson City responded with seven straight runs. Weirich bounced back with 10 strikeouts to give the Jays the 7-4 win.
"They just wanted me to command the strike zone, and let my defense make plays." Weirich said of his performance. "I was leaving it up in the zone and they were able to drive it. But after that I was able to bring it down and go away from the inside and they weren't able to drive it as well."
Despite the early deficit, Coach Ash said he had complete trust in his offense to put Jefferson City back in the game.
"There really wasn't a whole lot to be said other than we still have seven innings of hitting to do." said Ash, "Once we tied it up, we felt pretty confident that we were going to be able to get into that bullpen and do a little more damage."
The Jays fell in the final game of their 2016 campaign, but the future looks bright for the Jefferson City program. Ash will return 75 percent of the Jays total hits and RBIs from this season, along with his ace pitcher, Weirich.
"If I know them as well as I think I do, I think they'll even be hungrier," said Ash. "We wanna get over the hump of winning the district, and we finally did that. To finally get here and realize this, I think it will motivate them to get back here and work hard in the offseason."