JEFFERSON — Jefferson sophomore center fielder Anna Alexander went 2-for-4 and drove in the winning run in extra innings for the Dragons on Thursday in a 5-4 win over Jackson County.
“I knew I needed to get a base hit to score the winning run and doing that for my team means everything to me,” Alexander said after the game.
In what began as a pitching dual between Morgan McKinney and Haley Shinall, with neither team scoring until the fifth inning, turned into a showdown to see who would get the next run across as the teams went into extra innings knotted up at four apiece.
Jefferson (11-5-1, 5-1 Region 8B-AA) broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth when an error with the bases loaded brought home two, followed by a two-run single by Cathryn Knight to put the Dragons up 4-0.
The Panthers (5-2-2, 4-2) answered back in the top of the sixth, adding four runs of their own. Victoria Fontana bunted for a squeeze play to bring home Jessica Laird from third for the Panthers’ first run of the game. Andrea
Ledford drove in Brooke Griggs, followed by an RBI single by Macey Latty. Ashleigh Lance drove in the Panthers fourth run of the game to tie things up at four.
From there the pitchers and defenses of both teams took over once again to send the game into extra innings.
The Dragons came through in the eighth, when Paige Pate bunted Kasey McDonald — who began the inning at second due to the international runners rule — over to third. Alexander’s line shot up the middle brought in McDonald for the win.
With the win, the Dragons move solely into second place in Region 8B-AA. The Panthers suffer just their second loss of the season as well as their second in region play — both teams have previously lost to first place North Oconee.
Dragons head coach Brad Puckett was excited to see his young team pull through in a hard-fought win. Eight of Jefferson’s 13 players are freshmen or sophomores.
“This is what it’s about. It’s the fight you want to fight,” Puckett said. “This just shows that we’ve grown up by leaps and bounds since last year. For a bunch of freshmen and sophomores to come through like that and handle that kind of pressure says a lot about this team.”
This was the first time since 2008 that the cross-town programs have faced — Jefferson defeated Jackson County 8-0 that year. The Dragons continue region action Tuesday at Hart County, while the Panthers head to Watkinsville to take part in a six-team tournament, beginning today against South Effingham.