JACKSON COUNTY’S Tuesday practice was washed out due to rain, but the arrival of storms may have been perfect timing.
Following his team’s 6-3 loss to rival Jefferson Monday (click here for pictures), Panther coach Tommy Fountain thought his team might need a little break from the game after struggling offensively.
“I almost think some of our guys were overthinking it,” Fountain said.
Jackson County (2-7, 2-4) has shown glimpses of promise offensively this spring but the overriding trend thus far has been this: leaving runners on base. The Panthers, who stranded seven runners in the loss to Jefferson, have left 49 runners on base, while scoring just 29 runs so far.
“For some reason, we’re not stringing together hits when we get guys in scoring position,” Fountain said.
Jackson County hopes to start reversing that trend when it returns to the field today at home against hot-hitting Elbert County. The first third of the subregion schedule is over, with the rematches now beginning with the Blue Devils. All subregion teams play each other three times this spring. Fountain, whose team lost to the Blue Devils 11-1 in the first meeting, said his team won’t have any choice but to score runs in that game against the subregion co-leaders. Elbert County, Hart County and North Oconee are all tied at the top of the 8-AA South standings with 5-1 records.
“We’ve got to put runs on the board against those guys,” Fountain said.
Jackson County, which is now in a tie for fourth in the subregion following Monday’s loss to Jefferson, will move on to face Oglethorpe County Friday and Hart County Monday.
Fountain said that Oglethorpe County – which only lost to North Oconee by two runs – poses a stiff challenge to his squad. Meanwhile, he thinks his team will be motivated against Hart County after “letting one slip away” against the Bulldogs in a 3-2 loss March 4.
“I have a feeling our guys will be pumped for that one,” Fountain said.
Prior to his team’s Monday loss to Jefferson (see related story on page 1B), Fountain was encouraged by what he saw offensively over the weekend.
Jackson County lost to North Oconee 6-3 Saturday, but Fountain wasn’t disheartened by the setback, noting that his team hit the ball well.
“We played pretty good baseball for the weekend,” he said. “We actually swung the bat just as well against North Oconee as we did East Jackson (on Friday), we just couldn’t get them to fall. We did a good job staying back and peppered North Oconee’s right fielder with line drives. Unfortunately most of them were right at him.”
Jackson County fell behind 3-0 in the first inning – with North Oconee being aided by two walks, a hit batter, and an error – before rallying with three scores in the bottom half of the inning.
Austin Robinson, who led the inning off with a double, scored on an error. Trey Sorrells then accounted for the next run, driving home John Florentine. Quin Grogan, who doubled in the inning, tied the game when he went from third to home on a throw down to second.
But North Oconee broke the tie in the fifth with an RBI single and another RBI on a sacrifice fly. The Titans scored their final run off an error in the seventh.
Jackson County starter Jalen Banks (0-2) overcame a shaky first inning to shutout North Oconee in the second, third and fourth innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
Banks gave up five runs (four were earned) and seven hits through four and one-third innings of work. He finished with two strikeouts and three walks and hit four batters.
“Jalen struggled with control, but also seemed to get big pitch after big pitch to keep us in the game,” Fountain said.
Jackson County picked up its most recent win a day earlier – and a big one at that.
Sparked by four runs in the third inning and five in the fifth, the Panthers routed rival East Jackson 13-3 Friday at home in their second win of the season.
“We finally strung some hits together and pulled away late,” Fountain said. “Any time we beat East Jackson, with it being such a rivalry game, that’s also big.”
Fountain explained the importance of the win.
“We played them in a JV game last week and my JV team was missing some guys, as I pulled some guys to dress with the varsity that day,” he said. “We lost and I was politely reminded that we needed to beat East Jackson, even if it was just a JV game. So, from a rivalry perspective, it was a big win.”
More importantly, Jackson County was able to notch another victory in the subregion win column in its race to earn the no. 4 seed for the region playoffs in April.
Jackson County scored twice in the second inning, four in the third, five in the fifth and three more in the bottom of the sixth in its biggest offensive showing of the season.
Florentine went 3-for-4, scoring three runs and driving home one; Grogan was 3-for-5 with two doubles, two runs, and three RBIs.; Tony Holton went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run; and Sorrells was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a double, and a run.
Matt Bridgeman (1-2), “didn’t have his best stuff,” Fountain said, but battled for five innings, giving up three runs on four hits with six strikeouts in getting the win.