by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit head coach Tim Massey celebrates with Donovan Baldocchi after the sophomore second baseman scored on a wild pitch against Westview on Wednesday.

All seems to be fine in the world of the Jesuit baseball team.

Formerly a floundering squad in search of itself and some sort of distinctive identity, the positive optimism is again flowing around this Crusader unit.

Thanks to a get-right 3-0 win over Westview on Tuesday that was beneficial both for Jesuit’s bruised ego and Metro championship dreams, the Crusaders seem to have recaptured that confident strut that all solid ball clubs need to be great.

With Christian Martinek looking as good as advertised on the mound, striking out 12 in his first complete game of the season, and Jesuit gnashing out runs by exploiting the Wildcats’ defensive mistakes, the preseason No. 1 Crusaders look like their old selves, not the team that lost four straight and gave up a series to Sunset last week.

“This is probably the best game we’ve played so far,” said Jesuit third baseman Evan Haberle. “It feels like a turning point. Hopefully, we can get back on it. We came together as a team, and it was really good to see the guys up and energetic like they were. It was an overall quality win.”

“I was on the mound just loving it, taking everything in and just loving playing the game,” said Martinek. “We were confident as a team, and I was confident as a pitcher, so it was a really positive win. Westview is always a really tough series. Everyone’s trying to get after each other. Both teams battled, and we came out on top.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview sophomore pitcher Kenyon Yovan pitched a complete game and struck out eight against Jesuit.

Pitching battle

In a battle of Martinek versus Westview right-handed fireballer Kenyon Yovan on the hill, the outcome hinged on who could do the little things more often and capitalize on mishaps, when the opportunity presented itself. That team, at least for one afternoon, was undoubtedly Jesuit.

In the bottom of the second inning with Colton French standing on third and two outs on the scoreboard, Jesuit’s Donovan Baldocchi hit a routine grounder to first that should have ended the stanza. Yet, the ball ducked through the legs of the Wildcat infield, which gave the speedy Baldocchi enough time to race down the first baseline and allowed French to score, 1-0.

“We said, ‘Who cares who we’re playing? Who cares who’s pitching? We feel like we’re the best and can compete with anybody’,” said Haberle. “(Yovan) has a great future, but it’s just great that we were able to put some runs on him.”

With Chris Arpan at the dish, Crusader head coach Tim Massey called for a hit-and-run, which the towering sophomore left fielder executed, hitting a ball through the right side of the infield to advance Baldocchi to third.

Then, Arpan tried to steal second base with Tommy Kaempf at the dish, prompting a throw to the bag from Westview catcher Tyler Stofiel. Stofiel’s throw was on-time and on-line, but the 6-foot-4 Arpan slid under the swipe tag from Westview shortstop Parker Kelly. Running at even the hint of a heave from Stofiel, Baldocchi blitzed home and scored with a head-long slide that gave Jesuit a 2-0 lead.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit designated hitter Colton French scored the Crusaders first run of the game against Westview on an error by the Wildcat infield.

“(Jesuit’s) a very tough ball club, and they’re going to take advantage of your mistakes,” said Kelly. “Errors are going to happen, but it’s how you bounce back. We can’t let them piggy back off each other. We have to start swinging the bats a little bit better to make up for it and be that gritty team that we are. We gotta start showing up and try to get some wins.”

“(Jesuit) played well, Martinek pitched well, but we feel we could’ve played a lot better,” said Westview first baseman Teagan Lind. “It was definitely a winnable game for us. Kenyon (Yovan) pitched great, but we had a couple errors that gave them some momentum, and we really didn’t do much at the plate. You’re not going to win a lot of games like that.”

Defensive backing

Jesuit persisted in making the most of its effort in the third. Haberle led off the inning with projectile double to the wall in left, and came closer to home on a wild pitch from Yovan with one out. Martinek, the subsequent hitter, pulled a grounder to the right side of the infield, letting Haberle score on an RBI groundout to go up 3-0.

“It’s great that once I got to third, I could trust (Martinek),” said Haberle. “We can trust each other to get the run in. We trust each other as a team. We have each other’s back.”

Martinek certainly had the back of his Crusader mates, gaining strength and speed as the innings wore on and turning a dangerous Wildcat lineup into a tame bunch, who couldn’t get the bats churning consistently. After Kelly pumped a double off the leftfield net, Andy Schubert brought in Westview’s first run with a sharp single to center, 3-1.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview sophomore second baseman Jayden Hanna fields a groundball in the fourth inning versus Jesuit.

However, Martinek prompted a lineout off the bat of Stofiel, and struck out Jayden Hanna with a curveball that had all sorts of movement on it. Picking up confidence with MLB scouts charting his pitches and velocity from behind the dish, the Oregon State signee punched out the side in the sixth, including a three-pitch knockout of Yovan to end the stanza.

“That might’ve been my best inning, when I just got after them,” said Martinek. “I really got in my groove then and was just really on it. I took advantage of their weaknesses, like I knew they would have, and just battled knowing I had a great defense behind me. With guys like Donovan (Baldocchi) and Tommy (Kaempf) and our outfield backing me up and making plays, I felt like I could throw it anywhere, and they’d get the out.”

“He’s a great pitcher and there’s obviously a lot of buzz around him,” said Kelly of Martinek. “He’s going to be great whether he goes to Oregon State or enters the draft. But, we have to battle up. Christian is going to come straight at you. He’s not going to be afraid, and we can’t get in the box afraid.”

Strong finish

Martinek struck out Lind to start the seventh — his fifth straight strikeout at that point — before walking Kelly getting Stofiel to fly out to Arpan at the warning track for the final out.

“I really wanted to show everyone that I could finish it strong like I knew I could,” said Martinek.

“He’s a bulldog,” added Haberle of Martinek. “He’s the strongest guy on our team. He gets the team together. It’s just great what we he does for us. He’s an amazing, great pitcher.”

Yovan was great throughout as well, throwing an eight-strikeout complete game outing that surely got the attention of the scouts in attendance tracking Martinek. Yet, Westview knows it has to hit against elite pitching if it has any chance of hanging onto first place in Metro.

“Kenyon deserved to win,” said Lind. “We just have to make the routine plays. And, for the next game, we really have to start hitting the ball. We have to come ready to play every game. We still have a chance to win Metro. We just have to come (Wednesday) get the win and get the next one, and we’ll be alright.”

Westview is 3-1 in Metro.

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