The bus ride home from Hart County was a fun one Monday for the Jackson County baseball team.
The Panthers scored seven runs in the seventh inning to beat the Bulldogs 9-1 in Hartwell and secure, at last, a state playoff berth. It will be JCCHS’ first playoff appearance since 1983, coaches said.
“We waited until we got off the field and on the bus, then we let the kids really have a good time,” coach Tommy Fountain said. “To be part of history is special. This has been a six-year process. We’ve gotten better and better each year and have literally been one tie-breaker away from getting out of the sub-region the past two years. We had a couple of bad breaks both years, but we kept beating on the door. To finally get in this year is special.”
Coleman Barbee (4-0) pitched a complete game, which has been a struggle for him this season. He struck out four, walked four and gave up one run on five hits.
“I can’t say anything but positive things about last night,” Fountain said. “We played errorless baseball and Coleman Barbee was lights on the mound. We swung the bats well, played small ball well, and did a great job in the seventh inning of taking advantage of an opportunity and putting the game away.”
Chase Dunlap (2-4, 2 RBI) and Travis Vickers (2-3) earned multiple hits for the Panthers. Brett Bowen (1-3, 3 RBI), Chandler Malecki (1-4, 2 RBI), Nick Corso (1 RBI) and Joel Ellis (1 RBI) also contributed at the plate.
“This is for every one of those guys the previous five years that all laid another block to the foundation,” Fountain said. “We had a plan and sometimes had to fight tooth and nail to get our plans put in place and change the mentality. But, people from the top to the bottom of our system allowed us to do things our way, even when it may have sometimes ruffled a few feathers or looked crazy. It paid off last night.”
Jackson County was scheduled to play Hart County again Wednesday at home to finish out its region schedule. (Results were unavailable at press time). The team’s final regular season home game is 5:55 p.m. Friday against Cedar Shoals.
As for possible playoff opponents, the picture is unclear with the region’s no. 2 seed still up for grabs entering Wednesday.
The Panthers (15-9, 9-4 in 8-AAA) needed to win Wednesday in order to have a shot at hosting the first round playoff games scheduled statewide for Friday, May 3.
In addition to JCCHS winning, Franklin County will have to lose one of its last two region games this week. Franklin County (12-12, 8-4) plays Morgan County (13-11, 7-5) and Oconee County (15-8, 5-7).