THERE’S no better sign that a young team is maturing than, well, winning.
Lately, Jackson County’s softball team has been doing plenty of that. The Panthers (9-10-1, 3-1) have reeled off six wins in their last seven games and three of four in region play.
Jackson County beat Elbert County 5-4 Tuesday in extra innings to move into second place in the 8-AAA standings. That came one night after beating defending state champion Oconee County.
“I think we’re getting better,” coach Chessie Laird said. “We’re eliminating our errors. I think we only had one error (Tuesday) … We’re not letting the game get out of control. We’re keeping our composure which is big for us because we’re such a young team.”
The Panthers trail first-place Franklin County (15-4, 4-0) by one game.
Jessica Baker delivered the game-winning hit Tuesday night during the eighth-inning tiebreaker against Elbert County, singling home Sheldon Kendrix to end the game.
The Panthers won despite squandering a 3-0 lead after five innings.
Elbert County rallied to take a 4-3 lead, but Victoria Fontana sent the game into extra innings in the bottom of the seventh with a sacrifice fly to score Alyssa Dasher.
Not only was Baker the hero of the night at the plate, she also picked up the win from the mound.
Baker threw all eight innings, giving up 10 hits, four runs (all earned), three walks. She struck out four batters.
Offensive leaders were Dasher (3-for-4, run, RBI), Fontana (1-for-2, run, RBI) and Mason Garland (2-for-3, run, RBI).
Jackson County collected one of its biggest wins of the year the night before, rallying to beat defending state champion Oconee County 8-6 behind a five-run sixth inning. The Panthers trailed 4-0 at one point.
“This group did a great job coming back,” Laird said. “That’s what I’ve said all season long. Even though we’re making those mistakes, we’re making those errors — we’re young and I think a lot of that is because we’re young — we’re still getting experience and we’re coming back.”
Peyton Sorrells threw the first five innings before giving way to Baker, who completed the final two frames for the win.
“Both of them have been splitting time,” Laird said. “We feel pretty confident with either one of those to come in … We felt if we made a change right there, we could change a little momentum and give them a different look.”
Andrea Ledford put Jackson County ahead for good with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth.
A number of offensive contributors helped the Panthers bring down last year’s state champions. Kendrix was 2-for-3 with two runs and a pair of RBIs. Baker went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Fontana enjoyed a 3-for-4 day with two runs and an RBI. Also chipping in were Garland who drove home a run and Madi Pecht who scored two runs. Dasher and Cassie Satterfield scored a run each.
Beating the defending state champions was obviously big for the Panthers.
“For us to be able to keep our composure and fight back and then put up runs and get those runs across, I’m very proud of them,” Laird said.
Before the big pair of region wins, Jackson County took a long trip to North Cobb Saturday, winning 7-2 behind Baker’s four-hitter. Both of North Cobb’s runs were unearned.
Dasher picked up two hits and two runs. Jordan Evans went 1-for-2 with a three-run double in the first inning. Fontana, Garland and Kendrix all drove in one run each. Pecht, Baker, and Whitney Kendrix all added hits.