The East baseball team has gold medals and a new reputation around the National Sports Festival, thanks to John Jett.
Jett, from Gaithersburg, boosted both his and the East team's baseball futures when he pitched the squad to8 the Gold Game victory this week in Syracuse, N.Y.
It was a major triumph for a team that had a record of 0-8 in two previous festivals.
Jett, headed for Georgia Tech, struck out two batters in the 13th inning to hold off the West team, 9-8.The game lasted 4 1/2 hours, and finished at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"I was throwing well, and could have gone on," Jett said. "The umpire called a tight game, but I worked around that."
The victory, before a crowd of 4,000, avenged an opening 4-3 loss to the West. Subsequent victories over the Midwest (5-1) and South (10-8) set up the East-West final.
"The West had the reputation, and they looked good," said Jett, 18. "We didn't look good, and had a loudy record, but we stayed with them."
Jett emerged from the tournament with strong figures, hitting five for 11 in the four games. He pitched the full second game, and finished the week with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings.
"Winning the Sports Festival will help my baseball career quite a bit," Jett said. "I'm lucky I got there. I had had my half-filled-out application on my dresser for a month, and didn't send it in until the day before the deadline."
Jett, 6-2 and 185 pounds, had a busy spring helping the Seneca Valley team to a 14-4 mark and a place in the Montgomery A final against Rockville. His all-Met credentials included a 7-2 record and a 0.85 ERA. r
He transferred to Seneca Valley after three years at Robinson in Fairfax, where he was a three-sport athlete. In 1980 he had helped the Rams win the Virginia AAA baseball championship.
"I've only been a pitcher since 10th grade," Jett said. "I was a catcher for seven years, in summer leagues and stuff. One day I threw a nice curve ball to the second baseman, and the coach put me on the mound."
Jett got the call to be one of the East team's 15 players in June. He and Lenny Hyson, an outfielder from McKinley Tech, were the only Washington-area players on the squad.
"I had to quit my job (setting up banquet tables at a Gaithersburg hotel) to make time for the festival," Jett said.
"But I didn't mind. Instead we had seven days of games and workouts, and getting to know the East players. No one knew each other at first, but after a lot of card games, there was no problem.