THE JACKSON County baseball team didn’t talk about last year’s 19-1 loss to Jefferson prior to facing the Dragons Monday. The memory was enough.
Jackson County exacted a measure of revenge on the rival Dragons (5-5, 1-2) for that lopsided loss with a 9-5 win at home.
“I think our guys had a nasty taste in their mouth from last year,” Jackson County coach Tommy Fountain said. “We didn’t mention it this week. But I didn’t have to mention it this week. They knew the last time we stepped on the field with those guys, they embarrassed us. And they embarrassed us at our place.”
Jackson County’s celebration will be a short one as the Panthers and Dragons play again Wednesday at 5:55 p.m. at Jefferson.
Jackson County — which lost three times last year to Jefferson, the last of which was the 18-run beating — broke a 4-4 tie Monday with a two-out single from Jalen Banks in the bottom of the fifth. Jackson County poured it on in the bottom of the sixth with a run off an error, a two-run single from Trey Sorrells and an RBI single from Troy McIntyre.
Jesse Tallent gave up a one-out RBI double to Austin Thompson in the top of the seventh before recording the final two outs of the game.
Fountain called the victory a “program win.”
“One of our goals was to make them (Jefferson) know it’s a rivalry, and I think we did that tonight,” Fountain said. “But hey, we’ve got to show back up on Wednesday because they’re going to be ready to play and so we’ll go from there.”
A former Dragon played a big role in the win.
Tallent (3-1), who transferred from Jefferson, pitched the last four innings for Jackson County to earn the win against his old teammates.
“He’s been a bulldog all year,” Fountain said. “We pretty much had to go with him the distance so we’d have somebody to throw on Wednesday.”
It was the Dragons who had a chance to take over early.
Jefferson loaded the bases in the first inning with no outs against Panther starter Kolin Zimmer, who then hit two batters to force in two Dragon runs.
Zimmer was pulled in favor of Jalen Banks, who worked out of that jam.
The Panthers struck for four runs in the bottom of the second to take the lead. The first two came off a base hit from Chase Dunlap. Austin Robinson added an RBI single and Quin Grogan flew out to center field to up the lead to 4-2.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Fountain said of his team’s recovery. “We could have very easily fallen apart right there (in the first inning). But I think that's some of that confidence that’s really carried over.”
Banks held the Dragons off the scoreboard until the top of the fourth.
He walked Austin Thompson and Max Ford to start the inning and was relieved by Tallent with no outs. Thompson scored off a sacrifice fly from Andrew Bartek and Ford scored off a single from Tyler Cole to tie the game at four.
An inning later, Banks broke the tie for Jackson County with his run-scoring single.
The Panthers pounded out 12 hits in the win. Sorrells led Jackson County with a 2-for-3 night at the plate with two RBIs. Tallent was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Dunlap was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and Banks was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Nick Corso had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3.
Jefferson finished with six hits, led by Thompson (2-for-3, RBI), Tyler Cole (1-for-2, 2 RBIs) and Micah Carpenter (2-for-3).
Jackson County’s win moves it to 1-2 in the subregion and 5-4 overall. It also snaps a two-game skid after having dropped a pair of games to no. 3 Elbert County last week. Jefferson is also 1-2 in the subregion.