Faced with entering a long layoff on a five-game losing skid, East Jackson reversed those fortunes in a matter of an inning.
Down 5-1 to Harding (Tenn.) Academy, the Eagles (4-10, 2-4 Region 8-AAA) rallied for six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in a 7-6 home win Saturday (March 14).
“It was good for us,” Eagle coach Scott Myers said. “We didn’t need to go down another game. It was good for us to swing it well.”
This was East Jackson’s final game before a hiatus of at least two weeks as schools and extracurricular activities shut down in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I told them before the game, ‘Play it like it’s your last,’” Myers said. “Unfortunately, it may be.”
East Jackson used this game as its senior night in case the season does not resume.
“It was good to do that,” he said. “If it’s the end … It hurts because I know all the seniors were looking forward to trying to make a run.”
The decisive inning Saturday began with a two-run double from Josh Compton, followed by a run-scoring bunt from Sawyer Irwin. Caleb Adair later drew a bases-loaded, two-out walk to tie the game 5-5. Halton Hardy put the Eagles ahead 7-5 with a two-run double over the left fielder’s head.
“We did some good things that inning … I just feel maybe that inning we put the pressure on them,” Myers said.
The Eagles left the bases loaded to end the inning.
“We could have, or should have, blown it open even more,” Myers said.
Harding, a private school from Memphis, pushed a run across the plate in the top of the fifth inning to pull within a run, but Adair — who pitched five innings of relief for the win — held off the Lions for the final two innings to close out the win.
Adair allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out three batters in his extended relief appearance.
“Caleb did a good job and came in and threw strikes and competed, battled, kept guys off balance and got the win,” Myers said.
At the plate, Hardy went 2-for-2 to lead the Eagles. In addition to his crucial fourth-inning hit, he doubled home a run in the bottom of the first inning after East Jackson had fallen behind 4-0.
The game with Harding, a school 445 miles away, came about because of a connection between Myers and Lion coach Al Stevens. The two knew each other from Myers’ days in Tennessee.
The Eagles had dropped their last four games before Saturday’s come-from-behind win. Three of those losses came during a region series sweep at the hands of Hart County, during which East Jackson fell 16-1, 2-1 and 3-0.
In the 16-1 loss Tuesday (March 10) at home, the Eagles actually led 1-0 until the third inning when Hart County plated six runs that inning and never looked back after that. The Eagles managed just two hits in the loss, both from Hardy.
The series moved to Hart County Friday (March 13) for a doubleheader. East Jackson was limited to three hits in its 3-0 loss in Game 1. Hardy threw six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs (one earned) with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Compton threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the Eagles’ 2-1 loss in Game 2. He walked three batters. One of the two runs he surrendered was earned. At the plate, East Jackson finished with four hits. Jake Varner singled home the Eagles’ only run in the top of the seventh inning.
“They’re a good baseball team, but I thought we really played well (Friday),” Myers said.
Myers praised the Eagles’ starting pitching in the doubleheader in particular.
“When Josh (Compton) and Halton (Hardy) are on, on the mound, I’m telling you they’re tough,” Myers said. “They are two really good arms and can pitch with any team in our region.”
The team had opened last week with a 9-8 loss to Jackson County after leading 8-4 in the top of the seventh.
It remains to be seen when East Jackson or anyone else will play again, though the Jackson County School System plans to re-open March 30.
Myers is holding hope that play will return and the region will be able to determine its seeds for postseason baseball. Myers said the region’s coaches have already discussed possible scenarios to complete the season if play returns.
He relishes the thought of this team getting another shot in the state tournament after reaching the postseason for the first time in school history last year.
“I would love that opportunity,” Myers said. “I would love that opportunity for our kids, and our community. I really would … I would love to get into the tournament and the playoffs and see what these kids maybe can do.”