Jackson County produced the most successful season in program history this past spring despite hitting a collective .268. So coach Tommy Fountain was curious to see what his team had to offer at the plate during the summer exhibition season.
So far, plenty.
“That was probably the one thing this year that kind of held us back at times is that we didn’t always produce offensively like we’re capable of,” Fountain said. “So far this summer, we’ve done it.”
Jackson County, coming off a 19-13 campaign and state quarterfinals appearance, has scored less than seven runs just once this summer as the Panthers are unbeaten.
“We’re scoring eight, nine and 10 runs every time we play,” Fountain said. “And against some of the pitching you’re facing in the summer, that’s what you should do.”
Tyler Sartain, having made a small adjustment to his swing, has made the most noticeable strides, according to Fountain.
“Probably Tyler has been the one that’s kind of stuck out the most as far as where he was compared to what he’s been doing this summer,” Fountain said.
Other Panthers enjoying big summers at the plate are returning starters Chandler Saine and Chris Griggs as well as Kyle Maxwell, a junior varsity player from last year.
It’s all translated to the scoreboard, especially this past week as Jackson County plated 63 runs in six games.
“I don’t know how else to say it — they’ve just been hammering the baseball so far,” Fountain said.
The Panthers are also building depth this summer. Though many players return, not all have extensive varsity experience. And with some of the more established players scattered about over the summer — whether it be for other sports or showcase baseball — it’s given other players a chance to step up.
“I think that’s going to go a long way,” Fountain said of the summer experience, “not just this upcoming spring but the spring after that.”
Jackson County has also used this time to ease Brett Bowen back to the fold. The rising senior has returned to his shortstop position following a pair of surgeries. That’s allowed Griggs to shift back to his natural position at third.
The summer slate included a valuable road trip earlier this month as the Panthers attended a camp at Mississippi State. Jackson County went 3-0-2 during its stay in Starkville, including a 20-run outburst against Enterprise (Ala.) and an 11-7 victory over Alabama Class AAAAA champion Russellville.
There were other perks: the camp began with four hours of pro-style evaluations and fundamental work, Panther pitchers were able to work with renowned Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson and each day began with three hours of defensive work with Mississippi State coaches.
“It was probably one of the best things we’ve done since I’ve been here,” Fountain said. “I think it was very beneficial.”