The workload and expectations for Ryan Jeffries’ senior season were a huge leap forward from what he had displayed during his junior year. Yet, the 6-foot-2 left-hander had arguably the biggest one-year improvement in Northern California, delivering at the plate and on the mound to lead Saint Francis to a Central Coast Section Division II championship.
After appearing just once on the mound as a junior – throwing three total innings – Jeffries made 10 appearances in his senior campaign, despite not pitching during the first three weeks of the season due to an off-season injury. His starts included taking the ball in the CCS title game against MTAL champion Soledad. As he had done all season, Jeffries took the Lancers’ expectations and ran with them, allowing just five hits and no earned runs while striking out nine batters in the championship, leading Saint Francis to the 8-3 victory.
“There were a lot of seniors last year, so we had to replace about 90 percent of our innings from the previous season,” said Saint Francis first-year head coach Matt Maguire. “Ryan really came into his own, maturity-wise, and he didn’t have to really do much, except just be himself.”
Over the course of the year, Jeffries racked up a 7-2 record on the mound, sporting a 1.81 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched. In his first four starts, he allowed just three combined earned runs, culminating with a seven-strikeout performance against Ventura in the Elite Eight Classic, in which he did not walk a single batter.
After a hiccup against Mitty in mid-April, Jeffries returned to form, and allowed just six earned runs in his final five starts, with three of those runs coming in a playoff win over Pioneer, when he had plenty of run support. He also got retribution for the first outing against Mitty, allowing just four hits and one run the second time he faced the Monarchs’ lineup.
Of course, if that were all Jeffries had done during the season, it would have qualified as a solid year on the pitching merits alone. Instead, he also made opponents pay when he was at the plate. After hitting just .293 as a junior, the lanky senior rocketed up to a .435 batting average in 2018, smacking two home runs, two triples, and eight doubles along the way. Especially impressive was a seven-game hitting streak to finish the year.
The second meeting against Mitty could qualify as one of the top all-around performances of the CCS baseball season. In addition to the five-inning, four-hit, four-strikeout effort on the mound as the Lancers’ starting pitcher, Jeffries also powered the lineup by going 3-for-4 with a home run, a triple, and a double, falling just a single shy of hitting for the cycle. He also scored three times and drove in two runs, sparking a 12-2 Saint Francis victory.
“Ryan and Ricky (Martinez) really taught the younger guys what it is like to be part of Saint Francis baseball,” said Maguire, himself a 1998 graduate of the Lancers’ program. “Ryan really gave a calming presence to our pitching staff, and was never over-matched at the plate. He was a veteran leader on the field, and extended that to becoming a leader off the field as well.”
The big game against the Monarchs was the catalyst for the late hitting streak, one which featured multi-hit efforts against Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bellarmine, and Half Moon Bay. And while he certainly swung a solid bat, Jeffries also displayed a keen eye at the plate, drawing 14 walks to give him a .509 on-base percentage and 1.139 OPS for the season. He rounded out his game by demonstrating a high level of glove play in the field, committing just three errors in 139 total chances, while registering 20 assists and being part of eight double plays.
Next school year, Jeffries will don the red and white jerseys as a member of the Santa Clara University baseball program, where head coach Rusty Filter described the graduating Lancer as someone who is “really coming into his own right now as a player.”
For his efforts throughout this season, we are pleased to recognize Ryan Jeffries as our Central Coast Section Senior of the Year.
Other players considered include Mitty’s Josh Seward, Palo Alto’s Niko Lillios, Valley Christian’s Kevin Pence, and Willow Glen’s Davis Miller.