For nearly a year, Post 28 pitcher Cody Jensen’s arm has been shelved. He didn’t follow up his All-Conference senior season or his team’s state tournament bid to play collegiate baseball but he did pass the time by playing soft-toss softball. So it was a big deal when Jensen took the mound to start the fifth inning with a one-run lead against Fox Post 2 on June 18.
Head Coach Jodi Sweetman wanted to get his experienced southpaw some game time and since they didn’t get to play their double-header against Elsemere the day before, it would be the moment of truth for Jensen.
“We started out going with Mike Casale and, as hot as it was, he did a really good job,” Sweetman said. “But we were going to go with Cody at some point, no matter what.”
No one was sure how much control he’d have of his pitches, but Jensen quickly dispelled any question marks concerning his ability.
Jensen struck out the first two of his six batters on nine pitches with only two balls touching outside the strike zone.
He allowed two full-count walks and only one hit (a stand-up double) through two innings of work. Admittedly, fatigue was starting to set in at that point, but he trooped on to earn his first save of the season, striking out all three batters despite getting shelled pretty hard in the seventh inning.
Post 2 hit Jensen hard for two straight leadoff singles before countering with a strikeout for the first out. Post 2 shortstop Casey Wheeler took Jensen’s next pitch deep to right-center field for a three-run homerun, cutting Post 28’s lead to 10-6.
“My arm felt like Jell-o but D.J. kept me calm and told me not to worry and to get the out,” Jensen explained, referring to catcher D.J. Clark.
Jensen rallied to strike out Dover’s No. 2 batter on three straight pitches but then allowed a standup double and an infield single that shot off his foot about 30 yards into the sky.
Post 2 had runners on the corners with two outs at that point, but Jensen gutted it out an 81-pitch performance and struck out the final batter for the save.
The outing went much better than expected, though Jensen really had no answers for his performance.
“I was surprised that I kept my control over the year,” he said. “I was pretty nervous going into the game, but I felt good in the first inning (the game’s fifth) and having a bunch of runs helped out.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” Clark said of Jensen’s performance following the year-long layoff. “Pitchers are the only position that you can’t have an off season, but I guess he has more control when he’s tight.”
Post 28 jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead at the bottom of the first, but Post 2 quickly knotted it up and took a 3-2 lead in the top of the third inning. Sussex East returned the favor the next inning, when centerfielder Josh Dean stole second base following an infield single.
The throw to second allowed right-fielder Martez Hagans to score the tying run from third.
Third baseman Jay Marsh delivered his only hit of the game on a RBI single to give Sussex East the go-ahead run.
Post 28 left runners at second and third base to end the fourth inning and had stranded eight to that point.
Something happened in the fifth inning, though, and their bats came alive.
Second-baseman Zac Spece launched a solo homerun to lead off the fifth, and a steady supply of anxious base runners followed him home.
Jensen reached first on an error by the third baseman. Hagans walked on five pitches. Shortstop C.J. Bell scored Jensen home on a fielder’s choice. A Josh Dean sac-fly to shallow left field scored Hagans. And catcher D.J. Clark belted one of his two singles.
Jensen strengthened his team’s cause by drilling a two-RBI double in the sixth inning and Hagans’ RBI fielder’s choice was the cherry on the top of the sundae.
Dean led the team with 3-4 hitting (three singles).
Starting pitcher Mike Casale worked three 1-2-3 innings (the game’s first, second and fourth innings) and gave up only two hits and one walk for his first win of the season.
Post 28 (4-2) will play Glasgow at Newark High School at 3 p.m. on June 24 and Fox Post 11 at Delaware St. University on June 27 at 6 p.m.