Jefferson High School enters its final stretch of region 8-AA games beginning 5 p.m. Friday with a doubleheader in Washington.
The Dragons will face a struggling Washington-Wilkes team that is 3-12, 2-5 in region 8-AA.
Then comes a rematch with Union County, a pivotal game that could help decide the region title. On Tuesday, JHS (15-2, 7-0 in 8-AA) travels to Blairsville for the 5:55 p.m. contest against the Panthers (10-2, 7-1).
In the teams’ only other meeting March 19, Jefferson hosted Union County and won 3-2 in 11 innings.
“It is a big ball game, both teams are doing very well,” JHS coach Tommy Knight said.
“That will probably be another close game, one that will come down to a run late in the sixth or seventh inning. I hope not in 11 innings again … I hope in regulation this time.”
Winning late has become a routine endeavor for the Dragons, who on Saturday dispatched archrival Commerce 4-3 on runs scored in the top of the seventh inning.
Andy Nicolaus’ clutch single to right center field drove in the tying and go-ahead runs. Jake Franklin’s double and Trent Sorrells’ single started the late rally.
“Every other game we have one like that,” Knight said. “It is not for lack of drama.”
Also leading the Dragons at the plate were Drew Carson (single and a double) and Hanon Price (a RBI double).
Pitcher Micah Carpenter, who also singled, got the win. He worked just one inning of relief as the Dragons’ fourth pitcher of the game.
Carpenter walked one and struck out one, with CHS’ other two batters putout on a line drive and ground out to first.
Taylor Wilkes, Ethan Garner and Sorrells combined for the rest of Jefferson’s pitching duties. Together, they gave up the Tigers’ three runs on four hits.
Using multiple pitchers evenly throughout a game is unlike the strategy employed by most high school teams, Knight said. At this juncture in the season, however, he views the team’s even-handed approach as a mounting strength.
“We have a lot of guys through a lot of innings,” the coach said. “We have not had to ride any one or two people like a lot of teams have had to. Hopefully, that will help us.”
In contrast, Commerce relied entirely on its ace Robert Hayes. He pitched a complete game for the Tigers, giving up four runs on seven hits. (Of those, two runs and three hits came in the seventh.) He recorded eight strikeouts and did not give up a walk.
Daniel Streetman led the Tigers with one hit and 2 RBI. Chandler Rogers earned an RBI on one hit for CHS.
“(Hayes) is a good pitcher. He threw the ball well against us,” Knight said. “He might have got a little tired late in the ball game, we had some good at bats.”
Jefferson and Commerce meet again April 24 in Jefferson for the last game of the regular season.
The Dragons are now ranked second in Class AA behind no. 1 Lovett, according to poll published by the AJC.
When the rankings first came out with JHS breaking the top 5, Knight said he was not paying the polls too much attention. The coach said Monday he still feels that way.
“That (ranking) does not matter. The last one of the season is the only one that matters,” Knight said. “If you start thinking about it any other way than that, it will be a distraction. That is the way we are going to approach it.”