The Jefferson High softball team – which came into the Region 8-AA playoffs with high expectations as the No. 2 seed out of the South and an eye on reaching the state playoffs after missing it last year – had an early exit from the tournament and saw their season come to an end Thursday with a 4-2 loss against Fannin County.
The loss was the Lady Dragons second of the tournament, after losing to Dawson County 8-0 on Tuesday.
Jefferson (20-9-1) found themselves down early against Fannin County (14-9) when Kelly Watkins singled and stole second, putting her in scoring position for Natalie McLaughlin, who delivered with a RBI single.
The Lady Dragons tied the game up in the second when Morgan McKinney singled and was brought in on a single by Paige Pate and a throwing error by the Lady Rebels defense.
Fannin County would score three more runs in the third inning, when McLaughlin doubled, bringing in two, along with an RBI single by Sadi Goldon to give the Lady Rebels the 4-1 lead.
Jefferson would draw a little closer in the fifth when Anna Alexander and Jordan Whitfield had back-to-back doubles. Whitfield’s double scored Alexander, to pull the Lady Dragons within two.
Their offense couldn’t get anything going the rest of the way however, as the Lady Rebels held on for the win.
“We had a little bit of a lack of intensity today and I didn’t think that would happen,” said Jefferson coach Brad Puckett. “This is a tough region and we knew we were going to have to play exceptionally well to get out of it and we just couldn’t get it done today.”
Goldon received the win for Fannin, while McKinney took the loss for the Lady Dragons.
Jefferson came into the year with a very young team – six sophomores, two juniors and only three seniors – but proved to be one of the best teams out of the south subregion of 8-AA, finishing the year 18-7-1 overall and 10-2 in region play.
Puckett was obviously disappointed in the way his teams’ season played out, especially for his three seniors.
While taking the No. two seed in the region tournament and barely missing taking one of the four available state playoff spots might seem like meeting expectations for such a young team, Puckett and his team had their sights set higher.
“This didn’t meet our expectations, and obviously next year is a ways away, but hopefully this will be something that the younger girls can carry with them and build on,” Puckett said. “Bottom line is that we exceeded a lot of expectations, but didn’t meet our expectations, so obviously we’re disappointed right now.”
DAWSON COUNTY 4, JACKSON COUNTY 2: Dawson County secured a spot in the Class AA state playoffs Thursday with a win against the Panthers in the Region 8-AA tournament.
The Tigers (13-12-1) struck first to go up 1-0, but Jackson County would respond in the bottom of the fifth, when Kortnee Satterfield blasted a ball over the right field wall for a solo home run. The Lady Panthers would take the lead later in the inning, when Haley Shinall was moved into scoring position by Satterfield, and later scored on a bunt single.
Dawson County fought back, scoring three runs in the sixth and managed to hold on for the 4-2 win.
The loss eliminated Jackson County (16-10-2) from the tournament and ended their hopes of making the state playoffs.
The Tigers, who suffered their first loss Thursday to top seed Union County 2-0, will play Saturday to determine final state playoff seeding.