THE JEFFERSON High School baseball team was eliminated in the second round of the state playoffs last Thursday after losing twice to Wesleyan.
Regardless of the final scores, one cannot deny that the 2013 team had a successful season.
The Dragons finished the season with a 26-4 record and a region 8-AA championship, and they did it with a squad largely made up of underclassmen.
“It was a great year,” said head coach Tommy Knight. “I’m very proud of what the guys were able to accomplish. A 26-4 record is pretty dang good. We had a lot of younger kids step up and do some things that we were hoping they would be able to do.”
Knight attributed much of his team’s success to his players’ strong desire to win.
“This was a team that is extremely competitive,” he said. “They do not like to lose at all, and I think that kind of carried them through some games. We got some wins in some pretty close ball games because of that.”
While Knight acknowledged that ending the season in game three of the second round of the playoffs was disappointing, he pointed to a silver lining. Most of the team will return with even more to prove next season.
“We are still very young,” Knight said. “We will have the majority of our starters and pitching staff back, so I am excited about next year. They got a taste in their mouth this year— going to the second round. Once you get that taste in your mouth, it makes it easier.”
The Dragons are graduating five seniors— Jacob Page, Drew Carson, John Burton, Cole Edwards and Tyler Cole— all of whom Knight says will be truly missed.
Knight pointed out the shortcomings of the Jefferson baseball program in recent years, especially a 9-16 record in 2011. It was the first losing season in Jefferson baseball since the 1980s. He attributed much of the turn-around to his upperclassmen this season.
“This group of kids got us going back in the right direction. We are going to miss them. We really will,” he added.
STATE PLAYOFFS ROUND 2 RECAP
Last Wednesday, the Dragons hosted region 6-AA opponent Wesleyan in a double header.
In game one, Wesleyan scored first in the top of the third inning, but the Dragons quickly ran away with the lead after racking up six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jefferson added two more in the sixth to put the Wolves away 8-3.
Micah Carpenter pitched six innings allowing 10 hits and three runs. He also fanned six batters.
Trent Sorrells led the Dragons’ scoring effort. He went two-for-three at bat, with two RBIs and one run scored. Hanon Price, Max Ford, Jake Franklin, Alex Gaba, Jacob Page and Tyler Cole all added one run scored.
In game two, Wesleyan came out hot, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
The Dragons pulled to within one in the top of the third, but the Wolves gained ground in the bottom of the third, going up 6-3. Jefferson battled back to tie at 6-6 in the top of the fifth.
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Dragons were feeling the pressure. Andy Nicolaus got on base in the top of the seventh, but the Dragons failed to capitalize and bring him home.
Wesleyan went on to seal the win after that with a two-out double into right field that scored a run and made the final score, 7-6.
Jake Franklin and Trent Sorrells pitched three innings each. Both struck out two batters. Sorrells went one-for-four with two RBIs.
Last Thursday, the Dragons hosted the Wolves for the third and final game of the series.
Jefferson was up 3-2 after the first inning, but struggled throughout the rest of the game. The Wolves consistently put up runs in the first five innings, earning a commanding 9-4 win, eliminating the Dragons form the playoffs.
“That third game, we didn’t play as well as we could have against Wesleyan,” said Knight. “Now that we’ve been in that situation, next time we should be able to handle it a little bit better and hopefully come out on top.”
Hanon Price went two-for-three at bat with two runs scored. Jake Franklin went two-for-four with two RBIs and one run scored.
JHS PLAYERS NAMED TO ALL-REGION TEAM
Several Jefferson baseball players received all-region 8-AA honors.
First team all-region Dragons were: Jacob Page (1B), Trent Sorrells (3B), Drew Carson (OF) and Jake Franklin (DH/Utility). Jacob Page was also named the region 8-AA pitcher of the year.
Second team all-region Dragons were: Andy Nicolaus (C), Micah Carpentar (OF), Hanon Price (OF) and Jake Franklin (P).
Dragons receiving all-region honorable mention were: Alex Gaba (2B) and Max Ford (SS).