BOTH JACKSON County and no. 7 North Oconee enjoyed standout mound performances Wednesday, but the Titans ended up with the big hit.
North Oconee’s Thad Glenn drilled a two-run homer in the top of the third inning that proved to be the difference in the Titans’ 3-1 win over the Panthers (8-8, 4-6) in a series sweep.
“The Glenn kid had a good swing and he hit the ball 360 feet to right field and we lose 3-1,” said Jackson County coach Tommy Fountain, whose team also lost to North Oconee 8-1 on Monday. “We’re in a tough spot right now.”
The tough spot Fountain speaks of is the Panthers’ standing in the subregion after the loss.
Jackson County, at 4-6, sits three games out of fourth place in the loss column. Even if the Panthers end the regular season tied with third-place Hart County or fourth-place Jefferson, they would lose tiebreakers to both those schools.
Only the top four teams from each subregion qualify for the 8-AA tournament this month.
The Panthers — who now have a week off — lost to the Titans (12-4, 8-2) on a night largely dominated by pitching as both starters threw complete games.
Jackson County starter Jalen Banks allowed three runs, four hits and three walks while striking out four.
Banks’ mound opponent, Blake Gaubert, allowed just one run on five hits while walking three and striking out five in going the distance.
At the plate, Gaubert helped out his own cause in the first inning with a two-out RBI single to put the Titans up 1-0. Glenn then hit his blast two innings later with two runners on and two outs to increase the lead to 3-0.
Jackson County pushed across its lone run in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out RBI single from Nick Corso. The Panthers, however, left the bases loaded that inning.
Though not mathematically eliminated from the region playoffs, Jackson County will be relegated to the consolation rounds of the 8-AA postseason unless teams ahead of the Panthers stumble at the end of the regular season.
“Anything can happen … But we need a lot of help at this point,” Fountain said.
Even if his team doesn’t reach the region playoffs, this is a team that could win as many as 18 games if it wins-out in the regular season and wins all its region consolation games.
“We can still win 17 to 18 ball games,” Fountain said. “There’s no reason that can’t happen.”
The senior class also has a chance to leave Jackson County with a winning record in their careers — the first class to do so in at least a decade. Fountain also points out that anywhere from four to six players have a chance to play college ball, so they’ll look to finish their careers out strong, region playoffs or not.