Desperately needing a series split with Morgan County, Jackson County handed the ball to Coleman Barbee and the left hander delivered.
Barbee (2-1) threw a complete game, allowing two unearned runs and four hits while fanning six as the Panthers downed the Bulldogs 7-2 Monday on the road. The victory avenged a 4-1 loss to Morgan County this past Friday and got Jackson County (11-4) back to .500 in Region 8-AAA play at 2-2.
“We needed him to have a big night and he did,” coach Tommy Fountain said of Barbee.
Jackson County begins a two-game series with Elbert County today (Wednesday) at 5:55 p.m. and then returns home to play the Blue Devils Friday (5:55 p.m.).
It’s the Panthers’ goal to earn one of the top two spots out of Region 8-AAA for the state playoffs. Had Jackson County lost Monday night, it would have fallen to 1-3 in Region 8-AAA play and would have found itself in a bind.
“If you were to ever have a must win game in your fourth region game, (Monday) was that,” Fountain said.
The Panthers started slow offensively Monday and didn’t score until the fourth inning when Ben Brissey (1-for-3, two RBIs) hit a two-out, two-run homer.
But Jackson County got on a roll and ended up posting their highest run total in region play thus far as well as finishing with 10 hits.
Leading the Panthers at the plate, in addition to Brissey, were Nick Corso (3-for-4, two runs, stolen base, RBI), Joel Ellis (2-for-4, three RBIs), Colby Cole (2-for-3, run) and Brett Bowen (1-for-3, stolen base, RBI).
With Barbee neutralizing the Bulldog bats, Jackson County was able to get through its lineup once and adjust to Morgan County’s pitching.
“Coleman doing what he did allowed our offense some time to settle in,” Fountain said.
Facing two of the top teams in Region 8-AAA to start region play, Jackson has split its first two series — going 1-1 against both Oconee County and Morgan County.
In both instances, Jackson County rebounded from a disappointing opening game and won the rematch. While that demonstrates a degree of resiliency, Fountain would like to see more consistency out of his team.
“We haven’t been very consistent the past four or five ball games,” Fountain said. “We’ve got to get that fixed.”
The coach hopes to start seeing that in this next series as the Panthers take on a very sound Elbert County club that comes in at 7-5.
“They’re a solid bunch,” Fountain said. “Coach (Heath) Kennedy does a good job with them … They do a lot of things right and that goes a long way.”
Fountain stressed how big every game is right now in the 8-AAA schedule.
“In this region, a win against anybody is a huge win,” he said.