Jefferson coach believes team playing ‘about as good as we’ve played all year’
JEFFERSON proved its mettle this spring against an ultra-tough Region 8-AA, earning a no. 3 seed out of a league that boasts two top-10 teams.
Now, the Dragons will see how well the region prepared them for the rest of the state.
Jefferson (14-11) travels to Rome Friday to start a best-of-three playoff series with Coosa (15-6) in the Class AA playoffs.
“I feel good about what we’ve done the past couple of weeks of the season,” Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said. “I think we’re playing about as good as we’ve played all year long to be honest with you.”
The series begins with a double header Friday. The first game starts at 2 p.m. If needed, the third game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.
The third-seeded Dragons have won five of their last eight games including a 2-0 win over no. 2 Elbert County Friday in a region playoff matchup that decided the no. 3 and no. 4 spots out of 8-AA for the state playoffs.
“I think they were kind of reeling a little from a loss to Hart County and we caught them at a good time definitely,” Knight said. “Still, to be a no. 2 team in the state with their best pitcher on the mound, that says a lot for our guys and kind of how we are playing right now.”
The Dragons face a Coosa team that earned a no. 2 seed out of Region 7-AA with a 10-2 mark in region play. The Eagles, however, were swept by Calhoun 13-3 and 7-1 in the 7-AA finals.
“They’re pretty good,” Knight said. “It’s a pretty good region … I talked to their coach and he said ‘we played terrible against Calhoun — the worst we’ve played all year.’”
That performance aside, the Eagles have played the rest of the spring. Coosa even enjoyed a stretch this season where it won 14 of 15 games.
“Apparently, they’re a pretty decent team from the folks I’ve talked to,” Knight said.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is getting back to where it feels it belongs. The Dragons return to the state playoffs following a rare miss last year.
“We missed last year and that was definitely a downer,” he said. “But everybody is excited to be back. Once you get in state, you never know what might could happen if you get hot.”
With the state tournament rounds conducted in a best-of-three series format, it tests the strength of a club’s pitching. Jefferson believes it’s well-staffed in that area with starters like Max Ford, Micah Carpenter, Matt Bowen and Jacob Page.
“That’s been the strong point of our team this year,” Knight said. “We’ve got several guys that throw the ball well and they’ll keep us in ball game. If we can just swing the bats enough to score some runs, we’ll be OK.”
But Knight said the main key for his team in the postseason is simply continuing to play hard.
“As long as these guys play hard and have some emotion and enthusiasm about what we’re doing, I think we’ll be fine,” he said. "Maybe we can play a little while.”
Jefferson’s goal from the start was to qualify for the state tournament. With that goal met, the Dragons can play with a nothing-to-lose mentality.
“Anything we do from here on out is kind of gravy,” Knight said.
JEFFERSON 2, ELBERT CO. 0: Jefferson beat Class AA’s second-ranked team, Elbert County, 2-0 in a six-inning, lightning-shortened game to earn the no. 3 seed out of Region 8-AA for the Class AA state playoffs.
Micah Carpenter tossed a two-hitter for the win as the Dragons beat a 20-win Elbert County team (20-5). He threw five and two-thirds shutout innings, allowing one walk and striking out seven.
“He threw the ball extremely well like he has pretty much all year long,” Knight said.
Jefferson picked up a run in the second inning when Trent Sorrells (1-for-3, RBI) singled home Andrew Bartek (1-for-2, two runs) and added an insurance score in the third inning when Bartek doubled and later scored.