Season To Rebound

Season To Rebound

Article copied from Jamestown Post Journal (

Jamestown Community College ended the 2017 season on a 13-game losing streak.

The returning Jayhawks will be looking to wash that sour taste out of their mouths when they open the 2018 NJCAA Division III season — weather permitting — Friday and Saturday with back-to-back doubleheaders at Westmoreland County CC.

Head coach Matt Cummings used connections near and far to help fill this season's roster with players coming from as far away as Florida and California to hopefully help turn around the program's fortunes.

The lineup will be anchored by sophomore returnees Matt Hair (Frewsburg/Frewsburg) and DJ Yates (New London, Ohio/New London).

Hair, who will start at first base, was third on the Jayhawks with a .367 average, second with 20 RBIs and second with five doubles a season ago. Yates, who will start at third base, was second with a .370 average, second in runs scored with 20 and third with 15 RBIs.

"Having those two guys at the corner of your infield is pretty important,"Cummings said. "Those two guys had great freshmen campaigns and we're looking forward to them improving on that this year."

Yates reached base at a .490 clip while Hair was just behind at .419 for the 2017 Jayhawks.

"Once they caught up with the pace of the game and the speed of the college game … it's a testament to their work ethic during the week of practice,"Cummings said. "They don't try to do too much. They got themselves into positive hitting counts and made good contact when they needed to.

"It's rare when you have two guys like that hit so well, but we're happy that they did."

Also returning for Jamestown CC will be sophomore Steve Krystofiak (Brocton/Brocton). The right-hander saw time at multiple positions around the diamond as well as on the mound for the Jayhawks last season, hitting .236 with three doubles and nine RBIs while pitching in nine games with a 4.97 earned run average and 15 strikeouts in 12ª innings.

"Krystofiak is very versatile. He'll still be coming out of the bullpen as our closer, but he's athletic enough and has a high enough baseball IQ to help us out in a couple different areas," Cummings said. "Since we took over, we have said the best nine will play. We definitely feel having him in the lineup somewhere is what's best for our baseball team and gives us the best chance to be competitive every day."

The Jayhawks lost their top-two starters innings-wise in John White and Chad Nelson, and will now look to sophomores Daniel Recinos (Guatemala City/University of Nebraska High School) and Ryan Johnson (Brocton/Brocton) to carry the lion's share of the work on the mound.

Recinos threw 29ª innings with a 4.85 ERA while Johnson threw 26• innings with a 5.81 ERA last season.

"For those guys to come in as freshmen and get the innings and experience that they did was invaluable," Cummings said. "Coming into this year, both guys are looking stronger with more velocity and command of their pitches. We are expecting those two guys specifically to be a staple in our rotation."

Sophomore Nelson Rivera (Olean/Olean), who sat behind Cam Haberberger a year ago, will be the incumbent second baseman heading into the spring while Kobe DeJesus (Dunkirk/Dunkirk) will fight for time at designated hitter and in the outfield.

Maybe the most important addition this year for the Jayhawks is catcher Robert Herrera (West Palm Beach, Florida/West Palm Beach Central). The Jayhawks' losing skid last season coincided with an injury to catcher Noah Weinstein, who finished the season with a .500 average — good for second in the nation. Weinstein also handled a majority of the innings behind the plate when healthy, a task that will now fall to Herrera.

"He got wind of who we were from our visits down in the Clearwater area,"Cummings said. "We didn't know what we were getting, but we were pleasantly surprised this past fall to see how he could play, and how much better he makes our defense and offense."

Carlo Rodriguez (Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico/Lysander Borrero Terry) will be the starting shortstop for Jamestown CC to open the season while Caleb Caldwell (Frewsburg/Frewsburg) and Chris Williams (Silver Creek/Silver Creek) will be significant time in the field.

"Caleb is going to be a guy that is going to get an awful lot of playing time in the outfield and on the mound," Cummings said. "Chris is going to find some time playing multiple positions in the infield and possibly in the outfield. With his speed he can be a fantastic asset for getting on base and using his speed as a weapon."

Taylor Byrd (Tampa, Florida/Middleton High School) will start in center field.

"He had a great fall for us," Cummings said. "He will kind of fill the shoes of Noah Whalen, who for two years roamed the outfield and played lock-down defense while chipping in with offense."

Filling out the four-man starting rotation will be left-handers David Baxter (Lexington, South Carolina/Spoto High School) and Jacob Morgan (Palmdale, California/Highland High School).

Baxter is a sophomore who attended Florence-Darlington Technical College — an NJCAA Division I program — before making his way to Jamestown CC.

"Getting an arm like his who has veteran experience at the DI JUCO level … gives us the most depth we've had in our rotation in our three years,"Cummings said. "Coming from the left side is a dimension we haven't had before. We're looking for big things out of our three sophomore pitchers."

While spirits are high for Cummings and the Jayhawks, they know to ultimately compete at a high level and advance out of the Region 3 postseason, they will at some point have to match up with a program like Niagara County CC. The Thunder Wolves opened this season as the No. 2 team in the nation after losing the national championship game a season ago.

"We always want to be the best team in our region. For the past several seasons if you wanted to be the best you had to beat the best in NCCC,"Cummings said. "Having them in the region, we relish the challenge and ability to face them four times. They are the litmus test for where we want this program to be at again."

"Our kids are very scrappy. We have a very blue-collar baseball team that fights and claws for every run and out that we get," Cummings added. "Going through (last season) can really help mature you as a baseball player. If you can learn the right way, you can look back and be thankful for going through stuff like that. It makes you stronger in the long run."