While Jackson County’s win over Walnut Grove has no bearing on the state playoffs — the top four spots out to the region have already been taken — the victory was no less a much needed one.
Behind a stellar pitching performance from Hayden Gregory, the Panthers (16-11, 5-8 Region 8-AAAAA) defeated the Warriors 5-1 on the road in region play Monday (April 19) to snap a seven-game losing skid.
“It was very refreshing,” coach Matt Bolt said. “It was a win that we needed, that was good for our program.”
Gregory, a sophomore, went the distance, allowing one run, seven hits and three walks while striking out one.
“He had a great effort (Monday) night,” Bolt said. “He was very confident, and he pounded the zone.”
The game was scoreless through four innings and tied 1-1 after five innings before Jackson County scored two runs each in the top of the sixth and the seventh innings.
Sam Bradley went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI, Bryson Evans was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Ben Strickland went 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Justin Ethridge went 2-for-3. Jackson County finished with 12 hits, and “played lights out defensively,” according to Bolt.
With his team eliminated from the playoffs, Bolt said it would have been easy for the squad to go through the motions Monday.
“Our kids did exactly the opposite of that,” Bolt said.
Jackson County plays its season finale Wednesday (April 21) at 5:55 p.m. against Walnut Grove as it shoots for a 17-11 finish on the season. While Bolt said his team fell short of some of its preseason goals, the Panthers have already secured their first winning campaign since 2017 and set a program record this year with 11-straight wins. It was also a program-record 11 games over .500 when it started 15-4 this season.
“Our seniors that are leaving knowing they’ve left our program in a better place,” Bolt said.
While the coach said the program is not yet where he wants it to be, Bolt said he feels it’s trending in the right direction.
“We’re getting better as a program, but I’m ready to move it in the next direction, and I know the kids are, too.”
PANTHERS SWEPT BY EASTSIDE
Jackson County was eliminated from the state playoffs last week with a 10-0 loss to Eastside Tuesday (April 13) and a 10-4 loss to the Eagles on Thursday (April 15).
The Panthers were limited to two hits in the April 13 shut out loss and fell behind 7-1 after three innings in the April 15 setback. Nick Streuer led Jackson County with a 2-for-2 day at the plate in that loss.