Jay Schlaefer was given the big stage of an All-Star game and held the spotlight for the entire night.
The Manhasset senior turned in the performance of the night Friday in the Nassau Exceptional Senior All-Star game at Mitchel Athletic Complex. With the bat, he went 4-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs. From centerfield, he threw out a runner attempting to score the tying run to end the third inning. And on the mound, he pitched a scoreless ninth with three strikeouts to save the 6-3 victory for the ‘Nationals’ over the ‘Americans.’
Schlaefer, who will attend Hamilton College next year and play on the baseball team as both a pitcher and outfielder, was selected as the MVP of Nassau’s showcase event.
“I kind of surprised myself — I was a little nervous going into the game,” said Schlaefer, Newsday's Athlete of the Week. “I’d played against some of the players, but most of the others were the ones you read about and they are all pretty impressive. During the game, I just tried to have fun and play my game and it just worked out.
“Waking up on Saturday I was like ‘wow, I actually did that.’ ”
Schlaefer’s first homer came in the first inning and made the score 2-0. His second came in the third inning and made it 3-1. On his outfield assist he was playing deep in center because of a tough sun with two runners in scoring position — perhaps the reason the runner from second was sent home.
“To make a perfect throw in a moment like that was really satisfying,” he said.
He knew that he would probably get to pitch an inning and found out only late in the game that it would be the ninth. It didn’t start well. Schlaefer hit the first batter he faced and the second reached on an error.
“I leaned on things I’d been told by other leaders on [Manhasset High School] teams I’d played on and composed myself,” he said. “I got my command back and struck out the next three batters.”
The Friday night performance was an excellent exclamation point on a superlative senior season for Schlaefer with the Indians. The ace of the Manhasset staff was the winning pitcher in his last five regular-season starts and opened the postseason by leading the Indians to a 1-0 win over North Shore. In that game he pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and hit a homer.
“He carried us the way a top player is supposed to that day,” Manhasset coach Mark Giardino said. “It was simply awesome.”
Schlaefer’s season was a rebound from an poor junior campaign. After playing well as a sophomore, issues with a changing eyeglasses prescription and finding the best way to address it caused the downturn.
He was 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 48 innings as a pitcher and batted .424 with five home runs, 28 runs and 17 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
“He had a great season,'' Giardino said, "and he ended it on a great note.”