With the regular season in its final month, Jefferson baseball coach Tommy Knight put Monday’s 8-4 loss to first-place Elbert County into perspective: His team is vying for fourth-place in the region – not first place – and needs to beat the other teams in that vicinity.
“This one, if you had to put it on an importance scale, it’s down the line a little bit,” Knight said. “We’re looking toward Oglethorpe, East Jackson and Jackson County and trying to get that fourth spot. But don’t get me wrong, this would have been nice. It would have been a feather on our cap. It would have made it a easier if we could have slipped up on one of those other guys.”
Jefferson is fifth in the subregion currently. It trails fourth-place Jackson County by half a game, while East Jackson and Oglethorpe County are sixth and seventh region standings, respectively.
The Dragons – who play North Oconee – today (Wednesday) now have five games remaining before the April 22-28 region playoffs begin. Only the top four teams from each subregion qualify. Three of those five remaining games for Jefferson are against Oglethorpe County, East Jackson and Jackson County.
“It will be interesting for the week and a half or whatever we have left,” Knight said.
Jefferson trailed Elbert County 3-0 after the top of the first and 4-0 after the top of the fourth but struck for four runs in the bottom of the fourth to even the game.
Jefferson took advantage of an Elbert County error and a wild pitch to score its first two runs. Max Ford then grounded out to second to bring home another score, and Drew Carson tied the game with a two-out RBI single.
“After giving up three in the first and being behind the no. 1 team in the region, I was proud of them battling back,” Knight said.
But Elbert County tipped the scales with a pair of two-out run-scoring hits in the top of the sixth and added two more scores in the seventh – one coming off an error and the other via a two-out RBI double.
Ander Bartek started for Jefferson, but Knight pointed to the relief performance of Jacob Page, who threw five and two-third innings.
DRAGONS TOP PANTHERS FOR THE SECOND TIME
Prior to the loss to Elbert County, Jefferson was coming off a victory over Jackson County Thursday in the second of three meetings between the rivals this season.
The slow-starting Dragons scored six unearned runs over the course of the fourth, fifth and six innings to earn a 6-2, come-from-behind victory over the Panthers at home.
“We swung the bats,” Knight said. “The first couple of innings we were kind of in a funk. We didn’t swing it. (Jackson County pitcher Austin) Robinson did a good job – did a great job – against us. But we were able to get some hits there … and capitalize on some of their mistakes.”
Jefferson received another huge mound performance from Drew Carson, who threw a complete-game, three hitter.
“He competes,” Knight said. “He competes and gives us a chance to win every time he’s on the mound. That’s all you can ask out of a pitcher.”
Carson gave up just one earned run and struck out five.
Offensively, Jesse Tallent went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while Drew Carson and Max Ford both went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Nathan Carson was 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI as well.
Jefferson trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but Nathan Carson got the Dragons on the board with an RBI double.
Drew Carson tied the game in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single, followed by Tallent who doubled home the go-ahead run.
The Dragons never looked back.
Jefferson scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth off Jackson County errors.
Ford added an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to give the Dragons their final margin of victory.
Tony Holton went 1-for-2 for the Panthers, driving home Jackson County’s first run in the top of the first.
Trey Sorrells picked up the Panthers’ other RBI with a ground out to short in the top of the fourth to bring home John Florentine from third.
The final meeting between the two schools is slated for Friday, April 15, at Jackson County.
“They’ve got a really good ball club,” Knight said of Jackson County. “We knew coming into (Thursday) that we were going to be competing for one of the spots in the playoffs, and they’re one of the guys we’re competing against.”