0514JHSknightAUDJefferson coach Tommy Knight discusses its second round playoff series against ELCA
JEFFERSON — Practice never ends for the Jefferson High baseball team.
After the team finishes their drills with coach Tommy Knight, they voluntarily head to the team batting cages to improve their already dominant hitting.
"Each one of our players head up to batting cages when practice is done," Knight said. "They put in a lot of effort in getting swings in before and after practice."
The third-ranked Dragons (20-4) will have that extra batting practice tested today when they play host to Eagle’s Landing Christian (21-7) in the second round of the Class A state tournament.
The Chargers, which won the state championship in 2006, are a familiar face. Last season, they eliminated Jefferson in three games during the Class A state semifinals before losing to Cavalry Day in the championship game.
"All three of the games were very close and the crowd was huge during the series," Knight said. "It was almost an instant rivalry."
The Dragons look to even their record with Eagle’s Landing by using the same weapon they have used all season: their offense. As a team, Jefferson is hitting .379 with 42 home runs and 211 RBIs.
"Swinging the bat is our strength," Knight said. "One through nine of the order can hit the ball, and the middle of the order can really swing well.
"If we can swing the bat like we’re capable of, and how we have the last two or three games, we’re going to be very successful."
Jefferson’s offense is led by sophomore Jake Fields, who leads the team with a .588 batting average, 15 home runs and 44 RBIs.
But Fields isn’t the only member of the Dragons that swings the bat well. Lucas Redd, Tyler Hill, Chase Harris, Chris Beck, Jed Gurley, Anthony Dowker and Blaine Skaggs are all hitting over .300 for Jefferson entering today’s series.
Not only are the Dragons able to score on home runs, they also run the bases well. As a team Jefferson stole 61 bases this season, with six players stealing five or more bases.
"I’m the leadoff hitter, so I’ll try to get things started and let the batters behind me keep knocking me around," said Skaggs, who led the team with 13 stolen bases this season. "If we can get on early and steal a few bases then the whole team gets fired up."
Along with their potent offense, the Dragons boast two starting pitchers with perfect records in Beck (8-0) and Truett-McConnell signee Cameron Blinn (6-0).
Eagle’s Landing starts two solid pitchers of their own in Brian Moss and Jake Davies, younger brother of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Kyle Davies.
"They (Eagle’s Landing) have two pitchers that are just as good as ours," Beck said.
Along with a superb season at the plate and on the mound, Jefferson also has another strength, one that has kept the team together as they taking batting practice in the cages: friendship.
"They have a good time together and that what’s high school athletics is all about," Knight said.
"They’re building relationships, and those are things they will remember when they’re done playing baseball."