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St. Joe ends emotional Jimtown season

MISHAWAKA — Jimtown was never afforded much time to transition before the start of the 2024 baseball season, so pardon the Jimmies for taking their time once it was over.

An extended and emotional postgame huddle in the outfield, peppered with hugs aplenty among players and coaches, followed the Jims’ 6-2 loss to South Bend St. Joseph in Saturday afternoon’s Class 3A Marian Sectional semifinal.

It was the second straight year the Huskies eliminated Jimtown in the semifinals.

“Those young men over there, our players, our program, got hit early on with some adversity with the coaching change,” interim head coach Todd Cook said after the 10-minute huddle ended, “(but) they welcomed me, allowed me to come in. Those young men are battle-tested, a great group of young men, with their character and their baseball skills.”

Cook, previously a Jimtown assistant, wasn’t appointed head coach until three days before the opening practice in March and less than three weeks before the opening game, after previous head football and baseball coach Cory Stoner resigned to take the football job at Fairfield.

A young ballclub — just three seniors — the Jimmies nonetheless constructed themselves an 18-11 record, virtually identical to last spring’s 17-10.

“With everything happening (on short notice), I can’t praise those three seniors that we had enough,” Cook said of Brandon Smith, Kahne Kelley and Ashton Blasko. “They were the blood, the heartbeat of this team.”

Cook was also emphatic Saturday about saluting each member of his coaching staff — Jim Fredwell, Dave Pontius, Kevin McMahon, Nick Carithers and Kaleb Sotebeer — for “an amazing job.”

As to whether he’ll apply for the non-interim head coaching slot that is now officially open, Cook said, “I’m going to sleep on it and we’ll get back to everybody.”

The Huskies never slept in racing to a 6-0 lead, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings, then relying on the efficient, complete-game mound effort of Brody Zielinski (5-1) to finish the job.

“Zielinski pitched a good game,” Cook said of the junior right-hander who scattered five hits, struck out three, walked two and induced a pair of 4-6-3 double plays. “We battled, but just didn’t have enough. We saw their best guy and there’s a reason for that. They weren’t looking past us.”

St. Joe (21-6), which lost its April 29 regular-season meeting to the Jimmies by a 4-2 count, advanced to Monday’s title game against the defending champion Marian.

Jimtown closed to 6-2 against the Huskies in the fourth inning on sophomore Jack Kite’s two-out, two-run single and threatened for more in that same frame before leaving the bases loaded.

“We played a little sloppy defensively at the beginning of the game,” Cook said, “didn’t make the plays behind (starting pitcher Ben McAlister), gave up a couple extra bases here and there that helped spurt in some runs for them. We had a couple chances to change the momentum, but it didn’t happen.”

Junior Connor Christman unleashed a 3-for-3 day at the plate for the Jimmies, including their lone extra-base hit, a double.

Junior reliever Mason Armstrong fired 3 ⅓ innings of one-hit shutout relief.

Christman and junior Ty Zartman delivered web gems on back-to-back plays in the fifth inning, with Christman making a retreating and leaping catch of a soft liner from his second base spot, then Zartman making a sprinting and diving catch in center field.

St. Joe got a one-out, two-run single from junior clean-up hitter Brett Mason in the first, following a walk and hit by pitch to open the inning.

Junior No. 9 hitter Brady Langager poked run-scoring hits in both the second and third innings, with Joe Washburn also driving in a run in the second and Ben Van Fleit plating one in the third.

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3A MARIAN SECTIONAL

SB ST. JOSEPH 6, JIMTOWN 2

Jimtown;000;200;0—;2;5;1

St. Joe;222;000;x—;6;8;1

Ben McAllister (L), Mason Armstrong (3); Brody Zielinski (W).

Jimtown: Hits — Connor Christman 3. 2B — Christman. RBI — Jack Kite 2.

St. Joseph: Hits — Joe Washburn 2, Brett Mason 2, Brady Langager 2. 2B — Langager. RBI — Mason 2, Langager 2. SB — Jayce Lee 2.

Records: St. Joseph 21-6, Jimtown 18-11.