FOR A team trying to contend for a Region 8-AAA title, facing some of the best teams in the state was certainly a good way for Jackson County to gauge itself.
The Panthers (3-5) went 2-4 in last week’s Hawk-Bulldog tournament, which included several elite teams from Gwinnett County and around the state.
“The outcome as far as scores maybe wasn’t what we wanted, but I definitely think as a team we worked a few things and figured a few things out,” coach Chessie Laird said. “There’s few things we still need to work on. But overall, I think it was a good experience for us.”
Jackson County, ranked no. 8 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution preseason poll, beat Norcross (7-3) and Richmond Hill (5-4) and lost to Peachtree Ridge (4-1), Archer (7-5), Mountain View (3-2) and Buford (6-3), which is Class AAAA’s no. 1-ranked program.
The tournament began last Wednesday and wrapped up Saturday. In the middle of that busy schedule, Jackson County beat Hart County 9-1 for its first region win.
Laird said some of the highlights of the tournament and the season have been defensive play of Alyssa Dasher in the outfield and at shortstop and first-year varsity player Kaylan Pruitt at first base, second base and outfield.
Offensively, four Panthers are hitting over .300 after the team lost prolific hitter Mason Garland last year to graduation. Dasher leads the team with a .381 average, followed by Madi Pecht (.360), Jessica Baker (.318) and Shelton Kendrix (.304).
“This year, we really don’t; have that one person (offensively),” Laird said. “It’s pretty much a team effort. We’re really focusing on our small ball and seeing who can get it down and then we’re counting on whoever gets on, the next person their job is just to get them around.”
Laird — whose team returned to region play Tuesday against Morgan County (results weren’t available at press time) — did point out that her squad is leaving too many people on base. The Panthers have stranded 86 runners through eight games.
“That’s just something we’re going to have to continue to work on,” Laird said.