Jeffs baseball vs. Branched Oak: Three main storylines to watch for

The Jeffs will host the Branched Oak Bucks at 4:30 p.m. today, nearly one week after playing the very first game in the program’s history. The home opener last Saturday, March 20 resulted in a 5-7 loss to Seward after the Bluejays plated three in the top of the seventh to take a two-run lead.

Fairbury is looking to reach an even 1-1 record before traveling to take on Lincoln Christian tomorrow. While the Jeffs are learning their strengths and weaknesses early in the season, here are a few key storylines to follow:

  1. Offensive production outside the top of the lineup

The first four Fairbury batters went a combined 5-11 at the plate against Seward, accounting for all the team’s hits. Leadoff hitter Brody Kroll ’21 collected a pair of base hits, eventually coming around to score both times. Right behind him, Brendon Runge also contributed two runs, getting on with a double and a couple walks. Three-hitter Ethan Smith ’22 walked twice and also collected a base hit. At cleanup, Jacob Martin ’22 had a walk and an RBI double. One major key to the Jeffs’ success this season will be getting this productivity throughout the lineup. Photos by Brynn Novotny

2. The running game

The Jeffs know where their speed lies, accumulating six stolen bases via four players — Andrew Novotny ’21 (top left), Brody Kroll ’21 (top right), Jayden Schmidt ’21 (bottom left) and Brendon Runge ’22 (bottom right) — last Saturday. This could prove crucial in tight games down the road. Photos by Brynn Novotny

3. Pitching depth

Brody Kroll ’21 (top) outlasted Seward’s starting pitcher, going five full innings with two earned runs, eight strikeouts and four hits given up. Three pitchers — Andrew Novotny ’21 (left), Jacob Martin ’22 (middle) and Jayden Schmidt ’21 (right) — were needed to close out the game. A 4-2 lead was given up as five runs came across for the Bluejays throughout the sixth and seventh. Variety in Fairbury’s pitching staff, especially in later innings, will impact close games such as the one seen last Saturday. Photos by Taylor Gustafson and Brynn Novotny