The Jefferson baseball team made sure not to waste a dry afternoon with sunshine.
In the aftermath of several rain-filled days, the Dragons (3-7, 2-0 Region 8-AAA) totaled 18 runs at home Saturday (March 7) in a doubleheader sweep of Monroe Area under bright and clear skies. Jefferson won 10-0 and 8-4 to start region play at 2-0.
“We’re very happy to be back on the field and playing,” coach Tommy Knight said. “I was pleased with how we played. We swung the bat.
“We talked about it from the start that our non-region schedule was going to be tough. When we get into the region, we’re going to be good, and our guys had a good ballgame tonight.”
The series concludes with Game 3 Monday (March 9) at 5:55 p.m. at Monroe Area.
Jefferson, which snapped a three-game losing streak, homered three times in Saturday’s twin bill. Mason Cooper went deep twice — one in each game — and Coleman Watkins went deep in the second game.
Watkins and Cooper homered on back-to-back at bats in the second game.
“You’re looking for momentum boosters,” Knight said. “That’s always a momentum booster. One home run is a momentum booster. When you get back-to-back, that’s something that gets your offense going there.”
Rem Maxwell picked up the win in Game 1, which only lasted five innings due to run-rule limits. The junior tossed a five-hit shutout with no walks and seven strikeouts. Maxwell was actually not 100 percent healthy coming into the start.
“He was sick today,” Knight said. “He did not feel good, and he did not have his velocity, but he was able to make some adjustments and was able to throw his changeup and his curveball a little bit more and was successful with that.
“That’s good when you can do that because your stuff’s not going to be there every day and you’ve got to rely on something else.”
Brycen Jewell earned the Game 2 victory, striking out 10 batters over 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, two walks and two runs (one earned).
Jewell was pulled in the sixth inning after reaching his pitch count. Knight said the senior pitched well late.
“Bryce went to the fifth inning without throwing the ball good, and the fifth and the sixth (innings), he threw the ball well,” Knight said. “It just takes something like that to get him into the right frame of mind.
“He’s been struggling a little bit, hasn’t thrown the ball really well the last couple of times out, but the fifth and the sixth were definitely a bright spot that will get him going.”
Jackson Perry and Austin Bell worked in relief of Jewell. Bell came on and recorded the final two outs for the save after the Purple Hurricanes loaded the bases in the seventh inning and brought the tying run to the plate. Eight of Bell’s 12 pitches were strikes.
“He came in and got two good outs for us, two quick outs for us,” Knight said. “The big thing is just throw the ball over the plate. A lot of our guys have got good stuff. Just throw the ball over the plate. That makes a big difference.”
The Dragon offense produced its share of big hits throughout the 4.5-hour day of baseball.
In the opener, Jefferson broke a 2-0 game open with five runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Watkins and Cooper accounted for most of that. Watkins doubled home two runs and Cooper followed with a two-run homer as Jefferson led 7-0. Watkins went 2-for-2 in Game 1, while Cooper — who also had a first-inning RBI double — was 2-for-3.
Jefferson added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth, ending the game early. Trey McEver singled home a run and then later scored on an error, pushing the lead to 9-0. Bowman Horn, who went 2-for-4, brought the run rule into effect with an RBI single.
The Dragons enjoyed a big second inning in their Game 2 win.
With the game tied 1-1, Horn singled home a run, followed by a three-run blast from Watkins and a solo shot from Cooper as Jefferson took a 6-1 lead. With Jefferson up 7-2 in the sixth inning, Cooper doubled to the left field fence, bringing home another run.
Cooper finished 2-for-3 in Game 2.
Horn, a freshman, went 3-for-4, and totaled five hits between the two games.
“When you can get five hits out of your leadoff spot, good things are going to happen,” Knight said. “Bowman has done a great job of that pretty much all year.”
Jefferson now aims for a sweep of this series when it travels to Monroe Area Monday.
“You don’t want to leave one on the table,” Knight said. “We’ve got to go over there on Monday and take care of business. Austin will be back on the mound Monday. He’s our Game 3 starter. If we’ll swing it like we swung it today, I feel good about what we’ve got left.”