PANTHERS

Jackson County, shown here Friday (March 6) against East Jackson, rallied for five seventh-inning runs on Monday (March 9) to beat the Eagles in Game 3 of their cross-county series. East Jackson won the series 2-1, winning two games over the Panthers on Friday. 

East Jackson won the series against Jackson County, but it was the Panthers who left with the momentum.

The Jackson County baseball team rallied for five seventh-inning runs to beat East Jackson 9-8 Monday (March 9) on the road in Game 3 of this series between cross-county rivals.

“It was a very big win for us,” Panther coach Matt Bolt said. “It could be very, very easy going into the last inning down four runs to just kind of fold it up and plan to get ready to play a game the next day. But they battled and they found a way to pull it off. It was a very, very big win for our program.”

Bolt, whose team had lost to the Eagles 11-4 and 8-0 on Friday (March 6), told his team that this wasn’t a perfect win, but a gutsy one.

“My message to the kids after the game was I was still a little unhappy with how the first six innings shook out,” Bolt said. “But I’m very, very proud of their effort, their willingness to not quit and find a way to win that baseball game.”

Jackson County (4-7, 1-2 Region 8-AAA) plated the tying and go-ahead runs after an error on a Spencer Muffuletto ground ball to second base with the bases loaded and two outs.

The two scores were the culmination of an inning during which the Panthers — down 8-4 — brought nine batters to the plate and strung together five hits.

“It’s the same message that we preach every single game,” Bolt said of his words to the team prior to the seventh inning. “It’s ‘Find a way to win. Do your job and pass it on to the next guy.’”

Ayden Griswold scored the first run of the inning on an error in left field, making the score 8-5, followed by Logan Holycross, whose RBI single closed the gap to 8-6.

Two outs followed and then Tyler Zipfel was down to his last strike when he delivered an RBI single to pull the Panthers within a run, 8-7.

“We had some hard balls put into play, and we had some things go our way and we had some kids battle in some at-bats,” Bolt said. “We had multiple two-strike counts … If you put the ball in play, good things will happen in high school baseball.”

After Jackson County took the lead, Kedric Zimmer came on and worked a perfect bottom of the seventh to nail down the save as the Panthers completed the comeback.

“It was very refreshing to have a 1-2-3 inning,” Bolt said. “He (Zimmer) is a guy that we’re going to rely on. For him to come out of the pen and know what he’s got to do to get a win … he did it. Our defense played well late in the game and kept us in the ball game.”

Bolt noted that Tyler Vaughn threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Jackson County finished with nine hits, led by Nick Streuer, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Holycross was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

East Jackson (3-7, 2-1 Region 8-AAA), which led 6-2 after two innings, was limited to four hits despite scoring eight runs. Jake Varner led the team at the plate, going 1-for-3 with two RBIs.

This isn’t the first time this year the Panthers have produced these kinds of dramatics. Jackson County trailed Walker 6-0 in the sixth inning on Feb. 28 before rallying for a 7-6 win.

“It was a great win for us the other night and the same thing tonight,” Bolt said. “It’s very hard on me as a head coach, very stressful to put me through that, but I’m very, very proud of them. Hopefully, this will be some momentum carrying us forward.”

Bolt also pointed out that this is a very young Panther team. Jackson County played five freshmen and sophomores this past Friday (March 6) against East Jackson’s eight seniors.

He hopes this win will bolster the confidence of this team as it plays a series against Franklin County this week. Game 1 is set for Tuesday (March 10) on the road at 5:55 p.m. Jackson County will host the Lions for two games Friday (March 13), starting at 5 p.m.

Bolt put the victory in perspective.

“We’re going to try to take it one game at a time, and try not to overlook anything,” Bolt said.

Franklin County is a really good ball club — a really good ball club. But to me, it’s a lot better than being 0-3 in the region and getting swept by your crosstown rival.”

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