JEFFERSON — Sometimes pre-game antics can foreshadow the outcome of the game.
Before Friday’s critical Game 3 against Jefferson, the entire Eagle’s Landing Christian team ran to the center-field wall at Horace J. Jackson Field and slapped the "Jefferson baseball" sign that hangs there. What the Chargers didn’t know at the time was that was the closest they would get to the Dragons all day.
Jake Fields went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs and Chris Swancey pitched five strong innings to lead third-ranked Jefferson to a 13-3 win, erasing any memories of the Dragons’ loss to Eagle’s Landing Christian during the semifinals of the 2007 Class A state playoffs.
The win sends Jefferson (22-5) to the Class A quarterfinals, where it will play the No. 1 seed from Region 4-A, and the tenth-ranked team in Class A, Pacelli. The series begins Tuesday in Columbus.
"This is unreal," said Fields of the win over the Chargers (22-9). "This is something that we’ve been looking forward to since last year."
The 6-foot-3 sophomore played an integral role in the Dragons advancing to the next round, as he accounted for eight of the 13 runs scored for Jefferson on Friday.
"He’s been doing that all year," Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said of Fields, whose solo home run in the seventh inning tied him with Tyler Murphy for the Jefferson single-season record for most home runs in a year (18). "Since half-way through the year, he’s been on fire."
Not lost in Fields’ six-RBI day was the performance of junior right hander Chris Swancey, who surrendered only one earned run on two hits in five innings pitched.
"That was the best game I’ve ever thrown in my life," said Swancey, whose one mistake was an 1-2 outside fastball in the bottom of the fifth inning to Georgia Tech signee Jake Davies, who took the pitch to left field to score two runs.
"I was hoping for a strikeout," Swancey said of the pitch he threw to Davies. "That would have been a great ending."
The three runs scored in that inning prevented the game from ending after five innings, but it only prolonged the inevitable.
Jefferson tacked on three more runs over the final two innings and Cameron Blinn and Chris Beck each pitched an inning of scoreless relief that secured the Dragons’ victory.
"You always wonder when your team is going to peak," Knight said. "I think we’re playing our best ball now."
That said best ball was put on display early and often for Jefferson, as the Dragons scored six runs over the first two innings that fired up the home crowd and put the visiting Chargers on their heels.
Chris Beck started the scoring barrage with a two-run home run to right-center field in the first inning, and Fields capped off the scoring with a two-run double off the wall in left field in the second.
"We wanted to jump on them quick," Fields said. "That was our goal from the beginning, to get up on them early."
Swancey ensured that those six runs would be enough, as the junior northpaw kept the Chargers hitters off balance all game, surrendering only one hit through the first four innings.
Not bad for a player pitching what he called "the biggest game of his life."
"I’m not going to lie I was nervous," Swancey said of the pressure that went with starting Game 3. "But I came in and put everything away and did what I had to do."
All he did was allow only five base runners through four innings, and limit the Chargers best hitter, Davies, to one hit.
"He’s got the potential to be a great pitcher," Knight said of Swancey. "(Friday) we saw what he’s capable of doing."
Swancey also contributed at the plate for Jefferson, hitting an RBI single to right field that increased the Dragons’ lead to 11-3.
Lucas Redd (4-for-5 with an RBI), Tyler Hill (3-for-4 with a run scored), Blaine Skaggs (2-for-4 with three runs scored) and Jed Gurley (2-for-4 with two runs scored) also had solid games offensively for the Dragons, who scored in every inning except one.
Many of those runs were scored due to the Dragons putting pressure on the Chargers defense by bunting and stealing bases.
"It’s Game 3, you gotta go for it," Knight said of the team’s aggressive play. "Go for it or the season’s over."