After last year's dream season, new-look Jays continue to thrive

The Jefferson City are slated to host the Capital City Invitational this weekend. (Tony Mullen/KRCG13)

JEFFERSON CITY --- Last year, you knew the Jefferson City Jays would be good.

They'd finished second in the state baseball tournament in 2016, after all, and they had more seniors than a retirement home.

And they were richly talented seniors.

Well, the Jays weren't good, they were great. A brilliant 31-2 season that ended with a 21-game winning streak and a state championship --- the program's first in 28 years --- and a No. 13 national ranking by MaxPreps.

A dream season, to be sure.

But now, those seniors have moved on. It was time to awaken from the dream.

Not so fast, my friends. Don't look now, but this new cast of characters is doing just fine, thanks, and they're just one win away from matching last year's start through 12 games.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I'm not surprised," said Jays coach Brian Ash, whose team will take a 9-2 record into this weekend's Capital City Invitational at Vivion and Legion fields. "I felt like the potential was there and it would happen, eventually, but I think we're playing better than I expected at this point of the year.

"I just didn't know what would happen, because I hadn't seen most of these guys playing against varsity-level competition."

Success certainly breeds success. While the majority of these players were watching last year's games from the dugout or the stands, they were still experiencing it.

"Their focus in the offseason, all the morning workouts and the lifting and speed training, we had great numbers and they've made the effort," Ash said. "Especially the seniors, they were like: 'Okay, we've got big shoes to fill, we don't necessarily have to fill them out. We might have to put on a couple extra pairs of socks, but we're going to find a way be very competitive.'

"We're still at Jeff City and the expectations are going to be the same, regardless of who's back and who's not. And so far, they're doing great."

But it also could have gone the other way.

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