JEFFERSON — Jefferson Dragons baseball head coach Tommy Knight called hitting “contagious,” and nothing exemplified that statement more than the third inning of Game 2 against the Lumpkin County Indians in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The Dragons had 12 batters step to the plate. They snagged eight runs, including a three-run home run from Jake Franklin and a grand slam from Taylor Wilkes, en route to a 10-0 victory in six innings of play.
Along with a 7-1 Game 1 victory, the second-seeded Dragons are marching on to the second round of the Class AAA state baseball playoffs. They will travel to play Pierce County in Blackshear on Wednesday.
“You get a couple of the guys swinging the bat good, everybody’s watching over here (in the dugout), you’re driving balls off the wall, it’s (hitting) just contagious. It always has been, it always will be,” Knight said. “It seems like we will go three or four innings and do nothing. Then, we get three or four hits and it’s, like, it steamrolls for us. It has been that way the whole year.
“I like it, but I would like (to see) a little more consistency.”
Jefferson pitcher Ethan Garner allowed only three hits and recorded four strikeouts in the Game 2 win. He pitched five innings. He also belted a home run in the sixth inning.
“I thought it (the performance) was good,” Garner said. “Got a little out of the whack in the last inning, (but) happy for the win, moving on.”
Garner said it was “fantastic” to have the run support from his team.
“You just really have to focus on throwing strikes,” he said. “Really, all the momentum is on your side when you have all those runs. It’s hard to lose.”
Franklin knocked Wilkes home on an RBI single in the first inning to give the Dragons an early 1-0 lead in game two.
After leaving two runners stranded on the corners in the second inning, the Dragons made up for it in the third.
Hunter Thompson started the inning off with a double. Christian Hutch followed Thompson with a single. Then, Franklin cleared the bases with his three-run home run (4-0).
“I had a little rough start in the first game,” Franklin said. “Came back, we had to get some stuff done. (I) just shortened the swing, see it, hit it, that’s what I went to in the second game.”
After Micah Carpenter reached on a single, Garner drove him home on an off-the-wall double to drive the Dragons’ lead to 5-0. Four batters later, Wilkes stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and knocked a grand slam over the right-centerfield wall to bump the lead to 9-0.
“I just swung out of my shoes and it happened to go out,” Wilkes said. “I feel confident in our team going farther this year than last year, just because we play so good together and everybody’s got everybody’s back, so pretty confident.”
The Dragons got two more hits the rest of the game, a single by Hutch in the fifth and Garner’s homer in the sixth.
Franklin struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the series.
GAME 1: DRAGONS 7, INDIANS 1: The Indians took an early 1-0 lead, but, like Game 2, the third inning proved pivotal for the Dragons.
Zack Boobas started the inning off with a double. Two batters later, Will Breese brought pinch-runner Jared Bates home on a single (1-1). After back-to-back singles from Wilkes and Thompson, Hutch brought Breese home on a sacrifice fly to give the Dragons a 2-1 lead.
The Dragons added three more runs in the fifth inning. All came on errors by the Indians’ defense. Breese scored when the shortstop bobbled the ball on the gather (3-1). Franklin and Hunter McCaslin scored on a catching error (5-1).
Thompson brought home the Dragons’ final two runs in the sixth inning on an RBI double (7-1).