East Jackson’s baseball team went 1-6 during a tough non-region schedule, but coach Scott Myers said he believed that better days would be forthcoming.
He hopes Friday (March 6) was the start of that.
The Eagles (3-6) swept rival Jackson County 11-4 and 8-0 in a doubleheader on the road to start region play at 2-0.
“I kept telling those guys, ‘Just keep believing and keep fighting the good fight,’ and that’s what they’ve done,” Myers said.
East Jackson trailed the first game 4-1 after three innings before plating 10 unanswered runs to secure that victory, which ended a five-game losing streak. The team then won the nightcap going away with six runs over the final two innings.
“Every aspect of the game, I thought we played pretty well,” Myers said. “We ran the bases well, we swung the bat well and we threw it well on the mound and played great defense behind them.”
The Eagles enjoyed strong starting-pitching performances in both wins with a combined 25 strikeouts from Halton Hardy and Josh Compton.
Hardy threw 6 2/3 innings, striking out 13 batters, in Game 1. He allowed nine hits and four runs, though none were earned.
Compton then fanned 12 batters over six innings in Game 2, allowing two hits with five walks.
The Eagles tied Game 1 with three runs in the top of the fifth inning with a two-run single from Hardy followed by a score from Sawyer Irwin on a wild pitch. Hardy went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Cole Sealey, who went 4-for-5, put the Eagles ahead 5-4 with an RBI double in the top of the sixth inning, followed by an RBI on a groundout from Caleb Adair.
The Eagles closed out the win with five runs in the top of the seventh, which included an RBI single from Dylan Varner, an RBI double from Josiah Stansell and an RBI single from Adair.
East Jackson finished with 14 hits.
“They were resilient,” Myers said of his team’s comeback from an early deficit, “and fought back and played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I just kept telling them, ‘Just keep competing.’”
Jackson County’s runs came on a sacrifice fly from Logan Holycross and a two-run single from Ayden Griswold in the bottom of the first inning and a score off an error in the bottom of the third. Hardy then shut out Jackson County (3-8, 0-2) over the final four frames.
“He’s our rock, he’s our guy,” Myers said of Hardy. “We’ve got some pretty good arms. That was good after that shaky start to see him get back on it and keep competing and keep doing what he does.”
In the nightcap, Compton no-hit the Panthers through the first five innings as the Eagles (playing as the home team in the second game) carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Jackson County put runners at first and second with no outs in both the fourth and fifth innings, but Compton pitched his way out of both situations to keep the shutout intact. He also kept the Panthers off the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning after runners reached first and third with one out.
Myers said Compton “pitched really well,” especially when he ran into trouble.
“He did a really good job there of just kind of bowing his neck and continuing just to do what he does,” Myers said. “That was big. Those were some big innings right there … He did a great job of hunkering down, whatever you want to call it, and really getting after it and making some good pitches in some tight spots.”
East Jackson broke the game open with three runs in the fifth inning, which included an RBI double from Compton (who went 3-for-3), and three more in the sixth. That inning included an RBI single from Stansell and a sac fly RBI from Luke Lindsay.
East Jackson’s late surge came after scoring the game's first two runs in the second inning with an RBI single from Sealey (who went 2-for-3), followed by a run from Dylan Varner off a passed ball.
As for Jackson County, coach Matt Bolt called Friday a tough night overall for his team.
“We struggled tonight,” he said. “We struggled in every facet of the game. So, we just got to get back up here tomorrow and get to work. It was a tough night for us. We’ve just got to be better.”
The Panthers look to salvage a win in the series when the teams meet Monday (March 9) at 5:55 p.m. at East Jackson for Game 3.
“We’re going to come here tomorrow (Saturday) and try to have a good practice and get back to work and try to take one from them on Monday and try to worry about whatever’s next after that,” Bolt said.
Meanwhile, Myers hopes to see more of what we saw from his team on Friday.
“We’ve just got to keep pounding and keep doing what we’re doing,” Myers said.