The Jackson County baseball team caught fire late to salvage a long road trip Friday night.
Playing a doubleheader Feb. 28 in Marietta, Jackson County (3-5) lost to Walker 13-3 in Game 1 and trailed 6-0 late in Game 2 before rallying for seven runs to beat the Wolverines 7-6.
Jackson County scored five runs in the top of the sixth and two in the top of the seventh in rallying for the win on a cold night.
Spencer Muffeletto, who went 3-for-4, provided the big hit in the sixth inning, bringing home three runs with a bases-clearing triple. The Panthers tied the game in the top of the seventh with a bases-loaded walk from Kedric Zimmer and plated the go-ahead run off a sacrifice fly from Tyler Zipfel.
Coach Matt Bolt called his team’s late resurgence encouraging.
“To still be in the game both physically and mentally and to put up a rally late and to get out of there with a win … it’s good momentum going into region (play) to get that done,” Bolt said.
Jake Stinchcomb threw three shutout innings of relief in his varsity debut, allowing no hits, to earn the win.
“He just came in and pounded the zone and gave our defense a chance and kept us in the ball game,” Bolt said.
Jackson County struggled in the first game, allowing eight walks and committing four errors. Walker broke a 1-1 tie with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on its way to the lopsided win.
Led by a 3-for-4 performance from Grant Hardegee, the Panthers finished with nine hits, but had just three runs to show for it.
“We made a lot of mistakes and stayed away from our approach offensively,” Bolt said. “They hit the ball really well … We didn’t throw strikes and so we got behind in the count and they took advantage of that when they got fastballs.”
“We had a really, really bad day,” Bolt added. “Fortunately, we were able to get out of there with a win (in the second game).”
It was a busy week of baseball for the Panthers, who played four games. Prior to the doubleheader with Walker, Jackson county hosted Oconee County for a twinbill last Tuesday (Feb. 25), during which the Panthers were swept 5-3, 5-2.
Jackson County led the Warriors, a playoff team from Class AAAA last year, 2-0 in Game 1 until surrendering five runs in the top of the fifth inning.
The Panthers were limited to three hits.
Zimmer threw five innings allowing just three hits. He surrendered five runs, though none of them were earned, and one walk. He struck out two batters.
Jackson County was then held to four hits in the Game 2 loss.
Zipfel was pulled after 1 2/3 innings with the team trailing 3-1, but the Panther bullpen combined to allow just two runs for the final 5 1/3 innings.
The game stayed 3-1 until the top of the fifth inning when the Warriors picked up an insurance run with a sacrifice fly from Garris Duke. Jackson County got a run back when Grant Hardegree scored on an error in the bottom of the sixth inning but Caden Kopaniasz pushed the lead back to three runs for the Warriors with an RBI single in the top of the seventh.
Jackson County begins region play this week. The Panthers were scheduled to play East Jackson this past Tuesday. Results were not available at press time. The series shifts to East Jackson for a Friday (March 6) doubleheader starting at 5 p.m.
“We’re excited,” Bolt said. “We’re ready to go. We’re going to get tested early. East Jackson, they’re good. They are led by a group of seniors. They’ve got arguably some of the best arms in the region … The kids are fully aware that you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to have your best every single night.”