Coaches expecting big things from No. 1, 2 ranked Blue Jays
The Jamestown High School softball and baseball teams will be competing at their respective West Region Tournaments this weekend.
JAMESTOWN — After earning the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds heading into the 2023 West Region baseball and softball tournaments — someone's gotta ask: "What's in the water in Jamestown?"
Good pitching is the short answer.
JHS head softball coach Mike Soulis and company will head to Dickinson for the three-day West Region affair. The second-seeded Blue Jays will open up the tourney with a tilt against Williston at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
"We're happy that we got to the No. 2 seed — we let them enjoy it through the weekend and then (Monday) at practice we told them that we have to take whatever seed — the eight seed, the seven seed, the two seed or the three seed — we've got to play them as if they were all No. 1 seeds," Soulis said.
In the Jays' previous run-in with the Coyotes on May 11, they topped them 11-1, 5-0.
"They can hit the ball," Soulis said of Williston. "They've got some girls who can hit well — they kept it somewhat close the second game — more so than worrying about what we need to prepare for against them, we've just got to make sure that we do our things the way we're supposed to do things. I like our mindset and mentality right now. We just need to bring Jamestown softball to Dickinson and if we play to our ability I like our chances for the weekend."
Soulis said he likes where the team's pitching is at. The head coach mentioned Katie Falk, the senior starter for the Jays, has been on fire the last few weeks and had one of her best games of the season in the Jays' regular-season finale against Dickinson last Friday.
Falk has thrown 1,637 pitches across 96 innings. She has allowed 66 — 49 earned — runs off 115 hits. The senior has walked 41 opposing batters and has recorded 111 strikeouts. As of May 23, Her ERA reads 3.573.
Makenna Nold, a junior for the Jays, has tossed 63 innings and has allowed 37 runs — 21 earned — off 41 hits for an ERA of 2.333. She has taken down 125 total batters.
No wonder the Jays are winning games.
Overall the squad is 24-8 overall and 16-2 in the West Region. The squad's two conference losses came against Minot and Bismarck High. While Jamestown earned a portion of the WDA regular season title, the Majettes earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament due to a tiebreak.
"We'll probably review some things that we haven't reviewed in a while that we have to prepare for so we don't get caught off guard but you're 10 or 11 weeks into the season — you shouldn't be inventing any wheels right now," Soulis said. "We just want to hone in on our skills offensively and defensively and then bring that with us to Dickinson."
While softball's talent will be heading to Dickinson, baseball's will be staying right here in the Buffalo City.
The 2023 West Region Baseball Tournament is scheduled to begin on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Jamestown's Jack Brown Stadium. Head coach Jack Bowman and the Jays will be kicking off their 2023 West Region Tourney at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday with a tilt against eighth-seeded Bismarck High.
"We won both but it was the first two games of the season," Bowman said of the last time the Jays and Demons matched up. "There were 5 feet of snow all around the field when we played them and this week it is going to be in the 70s so it's a whole different feel but, we just need to keep playing the game we've been playing all year.
"We don't have to be any better this weekend, we just have to play the game that we've played," he said.
Bowman and the Jays clinched the program's first-ever WDA regular season title last week.
"They are pretty confident in their ability and it came together for them," Bowman said. "It was actually kind of interesting with these boys when we won it. There was no big celebration, it was more, OK, first goal accomplished, moving on to the next. They are pretty level-headed about this.
"This group has been pretty successful throughout their playing careers," he added. "They have accomplished a lot in other sports, Legion ball has been good the last couple of years — they've come up with having success so that's been a good thing but one of the nice dynamics about them is that they are talented but they still work hard. They put in the work every day. Hats off to them."
The commitment to grind has resulted in a 15-3 record for Bowman's squad. The team is averaging more than eight runs per game but as good as their bats are their pitching is just a little bit better.
"Our pitching has absolutely carried us this year," Bowman said. "We have a core of pitchers who we've relied on and we've done quite well with them."
Mason Lunzman is leading the way for the Blue Jay pitchers, having gone 28 innings and recording a 5-0 record on the mound. He has allowed 11 runs — four earned — off 20 hits for an ERA of 1.000. The senior has struck out 33.
Payton Hochhalter, Thomas Newman and Carson Orr also are frequent flyers on the mound. The trio has combined for 1,105 pitches thrown over 72.1 innings. Together they have allowed 56 hits, 29 runs, 16 earned runs, 21 walks and a whopping 82 Ks.
Hochhalter's ERA reads 1.280, Newman's 1.217 and Orr's 2.227.
No wonder the Jays' opponents are scoring on average less than three runs per game.
"We have a run of good athletes right now," Soulis said. "Baseball is going to be graduating a lot of seniors and we're going to have four very influential seniors on our roster that have played a big part in our success.
"The athleticism is there, the talent is there but they are just all-around good kids who want to get better and put the time in during the offseason," he said. "They are getting the rewards from that going into this weekend."