SEEKING consistency, Jackson County’s baseball team saw the momentum of a recent two-game winning streak halted instead with a 13-3 loss to Hart County in five innings Monday.
Getting back on the winning track now won’t be easy as the team takes on one of the top teams in the subregion, North Oconee, Friday on the road. Road games with rivals East Jackson (Monday) and Jefferson Wednesday follow.
Jackson County – looking to win its third game in a row Monday and exact revenge on Hart County for a 3-2 loss earlier this year – took a step back in the 10-run loss to the Bulldogs. Hart County quickly turned the game into a one-sided affair, scoring four times in the first, two more times in the second, two in third, one in the fourth and four in the fifth to bring the mercy rule into effect.
Trey Sorrells led the Panthers with a homer and a single. Andy Williams had two hits, including double. Austin Robinson had an RBI single.
Jackson County came into the Hart County game after winning a 10-6 extra-inning pressure cooker with Oglethorpe County on the road Friday.
The Panthers, who trailed by four runs at one point, plated four runs in the top of the eighth to get out of Lexington with the win.
“It definitely showed a lot of character for our guys to get down 4 on the road and come back and take the lead.,” coach Tommy Fountain. “Then to give that lead back and respond again, that’s pretty impressive. It was one of those games where when the game was over we wanted to get on the bus and get out of there as soon as possible and be happy with the win.”
John Florentine singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to break a 6-6 tie, followed by Trey Sorrells who added a two-run double to up the Panthers lead to 9-6.
With it getting dark and no lights, Tyler Kropp stole home to give Jackson County its final margin of victory.
Sorrells finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs, while Tony Holton was 2-for-3 with one walk and two runs. Kelly Moates, who homered, went 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
Austin Robinson went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, both of which came in the fourth when he singled home Andy Williams and pinch runner Jacob Banks to put Jackson County ahead 6-4.
Others with hits were Quin Grogan (1-for-4, sacrifice), Jalen Banks (1-for-2, double, two runs) and Josh Andrews (1-for-3).
Robinson earned the win from the mound, pitching two and two-thirds innings, allowing one run and two hits while striking out two.
Jalen Banks started, pitching five and one-thirds innings, surrendering five runs (three earned), five hits and one walk while striking out four.
With Jackson County leading 6-4 with one out in the sixth inning, Jalen Banks gave up a single and was relieved by Robinson. Back-to-back errors allowed Oglethorpe County to cut the lead to 6-5. In the bottom of the seventh, Craig Neal hit a game-tying homerun to send the game to extra innings.
Jackson County entered the contest coming off its biggest win of the season, a 6-4 victory over subregion co-leader Elbert County Wednesday at home.
John Fernandez threw five and two-thirds innings for the victory, allowing just one run on five hits. He struck out four and walked just one.
Fernandez wasn’t even slated to start until after the Panthers met Tuesday.
“I actually called him while he was in the car on the way home from practice and told him we’d changed our mind and he was going to get the start,” Fountain said. “We felt he could keep Elbert off balance with his off-speed stuff and deserved another start after his last start against Madison (County). Boy, did he ever.”
Holton had a perfect day offensively, going 2-for-2 with a double, a run and two walks. Sorrells went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, while Grogan was 2-for-4 with an RBI, double and a run. Josh Andrews was 1-for-3 with an RBI. Robinson also had a two-run double.
Elbert County led 1-0 until the bottom of the third when Jackson County answered with a two-run double to left centerfield from Sorrells, scoring Robinson (who reached base via a double) and John Florentine.
The Panthers then added four runs in the fifth inning with an RBI double from Grogan, a run-scoring bunt single from Andrews placed perfectly down the third baseline and a two-run double from Robinson to put Jackson County up 6-1.
Elbert County made things interesting in the top of the seventh, with an RBI double and a pair of RBI singles – all with two outs – to trim the Panthers’ lead to just two runs.
Matt Bridgeman, however, came in from the bullpen in relief of Kolin Zimmer and recorded the final out to earn the save.
With the victory, Jackson County atoned for disappointing 6-3 loss to Jefferson just two days earlier (March 14) and affirmed some of the expectations Fountain has for this club.
“We were much more relaxed and Fernandez set the tone early with throwing a lot of strikes,” Fountain said. “We had some guys we’ve been counting on really step up and finally get it done at the plate.”