Jefferson clinches playoff spot with 19-1 romp over JCCHS
PERHAPS Jefferson’s 19-run outburst against Jackson County Friday started with a simple fashion statement earlier that day.
Jefferson sophomore pitcher and infielder Drew Carson told his Dragon teammates to show up in style – literally – at school prior to Jefferson’s 19-1 thrashing of the rival Panthers on the road to clinch a spot in the region playoffs.
“We were prepped up at the beginning of school,” Carson said. “I sent a text out last night and we told everybody to dress nice today. We all wore khakis. I really think that got us going and in a good mindset and really got us thinking about the game.”
It’s hard to argue with the results as Jefferson built an 11-0 lead heading into the fifth inning and then plated eight more runs in that frame to bring the mercy-rule into effect.
Jefferson now faces Region 8-AA North no. 1 seed Fannin County on the road in a best-of-three series in the first round of the region playoffs. The teams square off in a double header Friday in Blue Ridge starting at 2 p.m. The “if needed” game is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. on the road.
“I know it’s a long way from Jefferson – that’s it,” Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said Friday of Fannin County. “They’re wearing folks out. Just look at their scores -- they’re wearing people out in the North. But I don’t have a clue about them, but we’ll find out before we go up there and play.”
Knight’s team goes into this Friday’s contest carrying a ton of confidence.
Against Jackson County, Jefferson pounded out 14 hits – many of them bloop singles – and took advantage of five Jackson County errors in earning its third win this year over the Panthers.
“I think that was the first time this year that we’ve played our game,” Carson said. “We all put hits together and took advantage of their errors and we just played our game.”
Knight said his team had a lot of things go its way in Friday’s win.
“We could play them 100 times and that could only happen one,” Knight said. “They’re a good ball club. We get bloop hits. We get seeing-eye hits. Things just fell our way today (Friday), and we won the ball game.”
Jefferson received a huge performance from freshman Max Ford, who pitched a complete-game, four-hitter. Ford surrendered his only run in the third inning when the Dragons already had a commanding 7-0 lead.
Knight praised the freshman’s composure and control in the five-inning performance.
“Max Ford was clutch,” Knight said. “He didn’t look like a freshman on the mound.”
Ford also led Jefferson offensively, driving in four runs during a 2-for-3 afternoon at the plate. Other leading hitters were Kevin Ross (3-for-5, two RBIs), Drew Carson (2-for-5, two RBIs) and Andrew Bartek (3-for-5, two RBIs). Austin Thompson (1-for-2) and Jesse Tallent (1-for-3) also drove home one run each.
With his team having qualified for the region postseason, Knight’s vastly young squad has already met one of the team’s objectives for the year.
“Young kids are growing up,” Knight said. “You have a freshman who comes and does what he did tonight (Friday) and a couple of the younger kids did a great job, so we’re about where I thought we’d be, where I hoped we’d be. But we’ve still got some to go now. We want to keep getting better and better and better and play a little while in the playoffs.”
If Jefferson continues to perform the way it did Friday against Jackson County, that may very well happen.
“We’re so pumped right now, I can’t even explain,” Carson said. “We’re supposed to have a down team this year, everybody thinks we’ve got a down team, but we always figure out a way to win. I don’t know much about the North side, but I hear that they’re alright, and we’re just going to have to go play like we did (Friday).”