JEFFERSON’S youth-filled roster will hope it gleaned enough experience from just two non-region games to get it ready for the Region 8-AA wars.
The Dragons (1-1) open 8-AA South subregion play today (Wednesday) against Elbert County at home, then travel to North Oconee Friday as the race for the playoffs officially begins.
Coach Tommy Knight said that starting subregion play this early any year would be arduous, let alone in a season in which Jefferson lost 11 seniors.
“Going in as young as we are, it’s going to be tough,” Knight said.
Each team in 8-AA South is gunning for a top-four finish in the regular season standings in order to qualify for the Region 8-AA tournament and play for the right to go to the Class AA state playoffs. Jefferson starts this 18-game, month-and-half subregion stretch having split its only two non-region contests.
The Dragons lost to Commerce 11-7 last Tuesday on the road but rebounded with a 12-2 drubbing of Clarke Central Thursday in Athens.
Jefferson’s Monday rematch with Commerce was rained out. The teams won’t reschedule the contest.
“I think we’re getting better,” Knight said. “From the first intrasquad scrimmage to the Clarke Central game, it’s been night and day.”
As for that Clarke Central game, Jesse Talent went 4-for-4 with a double and drove home three runs and also pitched three perfect innings in the Dragons’ 10-run bounce-back victory.
Others adding to the hit parade were Jason Demos (2-for-4, two RBIs, three runs), Nathan Carson (2-for-4, two RBIs, two runs), Drew Carson (2-for-3, double, one RBI, two runs) and Kevin Ross (2-for-4, one run). Others with hits were Austin Thompson (1-for-3, triple, one RBI), Ryan Johnson (1-for-1, double) and Hanon Price (1-for-1).
Jefferson pounded out 15 hits in victory and also stole seven bases, four of which came from Jason Demos.
Knight said his team effectively minimized its mistakes against Clarke Central, something that the Dragons didn’t do against Commerce. Jefferson only walked three batters and committed no errors against the Gladiators, compared to nine walks and three errors against Commerce.
“That was the difference in the Commerce game and the Clarke Central game,” Knight said.
The Dragons struck early, building a 4-0 lead heading into the top of the third. Clarke Central answered with two scores in the bottom half of the inning, but Jefferson scored eight unanswered runs over the next three innings to put away the Class AAAA foe.
Matt Bowen and Jesse Tallent combined to throw a two-hitter. Bowen worked three innings, surrendering two hits and two runs (one earned) while walking three and striking out five.
Tallent faced just nine batters over the next three innings, retiring all nine and striking out seven. “Jesse had a great ball game,” Knight said. “He went 4-for-4 and pitched three great innings.”