JACKSON County plated nine runs in the bottom of the fifth Wednesday to turn a close game into a blowout in a 12-2 win over cross-county rival East Jackson.
The Panthers (7-6, 3-4) brought 13 batters to the plate in the pivotal inning, pounding out nine hits and ending the game with an RBI single from Trey Sorrells to bring the 10-run mercy rule into effect.
“Hitting is kind of contagious,” Jackson County coach Tommy Fountain said. “Once we got it going, it kept on rolling.”
Jackson County got three quality innings of relief from Bryson Evans and Quinn Grogan after starter Kolin Zimmer departed with no outs in the third inning. Evans worked the third and the fourth while Grogan pitched the fifth inning.
“Bryson and Quinn did a good job of coming in and doing what we needed them to do,” Fountain said.
The Panthers only led 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth, and Fountain said East Jackson starter Robert McKay did a good job keeping his lineup off-balance early on.
But Jackson County scored its first run of the fifth off an error and the floodgates opened from there. The Panthers added a two-run double from Sorrells, RBI singles from Troy McIntyre and Jalen Banks, a two-run single from Nick Corso, an RBI single from Austin Robinson and then Sorrells’ game-ending RBI single.
The night was about more than just a subregion game between neighboring schools.
The Panthers honored the late Joel Conway, who coached baseball at both Jackson County and East Jackson before dying in an automobile accident back during the fall. A placard with Conway’s name and no. 25 that he wore as a coach is now located on the right centerfield wall at Panther Field.
Fountain said the natural emotions of the pre-game may have contributed to his team’s flat start.
“A lot of the guys were emotional,” Fountain said.
Jackson County led 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning when Jesse Tallent blasted a solo homer off McKay. Ethan Lyons answered for the Eagles by leading off the top of the third with a solo shot of his own. Nate Strait singled up the middle later in the inning to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
Grogan tied the game at two with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the third and Banks put the Panthers ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out RBI single. Then Jackson County took over in the fifth.
Jackson County and East Jackson meet again Friday at East Jackson as the Panthers hope to sweep the season series. Fountain pointed out how difficult road games in 8-AA have been this spring. Of the 18 region games played, the visiting team has only won four times.
“We’ve got to get some sweeps,” Fountain said. “This region has been crazy with the away games.”