JEFFERSON CITY - The Jefferson City Jays high school baseball team looks different this season with 12 seniors on the varsity roster. Head Coach Kyle Lasley said this many returning players is rare, and that this has paid off as his veteran players have taken on leadership roles for those new to the program.
"They take the initiative of teaching those guys instead of me having to stop practice," Lasley said. "It keeps the flow of practices going."
Senior Jay Wyatt Fischer said stepping into a position of leadership comes with its own responsibilities.
"Being a senior . . . is an important role to have," Fischer said. "Coaching some of the younger guys who are going to be in our shoes next year."
It has given starting pitcher Case Hager a huge support system to rely on in his junior season with the Jays.
"If I see myself starting to struggle, I go and talk to some of the seniors," Hager said. "They help me get through it, tell me that I've got it, and overall just push me to make me a better person."
"It just makes my life and our coaching staff's life much easier," Lasley said. "Just the continuity and the togetherness that these guys share on the field and off the field.”
That continuity didn’t happen overnight. Eight seniors stack the starting lineup, and Fischer said most of them have played on the same team for over 10 years.
“We spent weekends in the hotel, we were 8, 9 ,10 years old swimming, playing wiffle ball, just spending the day together, then going out in the afternoon and playing baseball,” Fischer said. “We’ve all been really close-knit for a long time.”
Lasley said the dynamic between the players reminds him of another team he coached that went on to do great things.
“The last group that I’ve been a part of here in Jeff City that’s had so much leadership is our 2017 group which we won a state championship with,” Lasley said.
This season, the team believes it has the grit to win its own state championship title.
“That’s the goal,” Fischer said. “It’s a big expectation to live up to but we’re just trying to take it game by game, win as much as we can and hopefully when it comes to postseason we can get there.”
Lasley is confident in his lineup and the players’ determination to make it there.
"They’re just a very competitive group," Lasley said. " This is a group that they’re not going to back down. They’re going to keep fighting every pitch."