Jackson County got just what it wanted this past weekend — two games on the road against top-notch competition. And of course, two wins.
“That would have been a long way to go to get hammered twice and come back home,” Panther coach Tommy Fountain quipped.
Jackson County (9-2) swept its long Friday-Saturday trek through the state, beating Pike County 2-0 in Zebulon Friday and then Brookstone 10-6 in Columbus Saturday.
Fountain, a Brookstone alum, scheduled back-to-back games against top competition far away from the confines of Panther Field to simulate a state playoff type atmosphere.
“I felt like last year, we could have benefited — before the playoffs — from being in that kind of atmosphere and being on the road,” Fountain said. “So that’s why we did it.”
In the win over Pike County, Andrew Fogarty picked up the win, throwing six and two-thirds innings. He gave up three hits and two walks while striking out two.
“Andrew Fogarty did a tremendous job on the mound,” said Fountain, who noted that the Panther pitcher shutdown a team that had been scoring a lot of runs.
Coleman Barbee earned the save, recording the final out of the game with a strikeout.
Offensive leaders were Joel Ellis (2-for-4, RBI), Nick Corso (1-for-4) and Jacob Banks (1-for-4, RBI).
Fountain said this was a big win.
“They were the best team we’ve played all year, so I was very happy with that,” he said.
Fountain said beating Brookstone on Saturday was “kind of icing on the cake.”
In that victory, Jeremy Cook threw four innings for the win, giving up four runs, six hits and three walks, while striking out five. Barbee earned his second save in as many days, throwing three innings and surrendering two runs, three hits and two walks. He struck out five batters.
Several Panthers enjoyed big days at the plate for Jackson County, which won for the eighth time in nine games. Ben Brissey homered and had two RBIs; Patrick Overstreet went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs; Colby Cole was 2-for-3 with two RBIs; Ellis was 1-for-3 with a double; Banks went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs; and Fogarty was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.
Fountain said the Brookstone game turned into an unexpected slugfest.
“It was kind of funny … I felt we would have a little more success on the mound against Brookstone than we did against Pike,” he said.
The highlight of the weekend, however, might have been the Panther defense which was stellar in both wins.
“I don’t know that enough can be said (about the defense),” Fountain said. “We played 14 innings of baseball and only made one error. If you can do that, you’re going to beat just about whoever you play.”
Jackson County will have some down time to gear up for region play, which starts Monday at Oconee County. While the Panthers won nine of 11 games in a stronger non-region schedule this year, Fountain said the stakes are much higher now.
“Next week starts a new season,” he said. “It’s fast and it’s quick and its 14 games and you’re playing every Monday, Wednesday, Friday … We’ve just got to stay hot. Because whoever gets hot is going to win the thing.”
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