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Wildcats claw Johnson, 7-1
Johnson High's Christian Duguay catches the ball at first base as Rabun County High's Tim Webb is out in the second inning during a game at Johnson High School Thursday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

OAKWOOD Tony Wilson isn’t looking for miracles from his baseball team.

The Johnson High coach is just focused on a little defensive consistency. And so far, the defensive has made drastic progression, despite the 0-2 record.

"We played a lot better defensively tonight," Wilson said referring to Thursday’s 7-1 loss to Rabun County (2-0) in Oakwood. "We’re definitely starting to cut down on the errors."

Defensive consistency is the starting block for Wilson and the Knights with a roster of 13 players, most of the starters being freshmen or sophomores. Against the Wildcats, there were only three errors by Johnson in the field. That is a striking improvement from the 10 errors that the Knights committed in their season-opening loss at Clarke Central on Monday.

"At this point in the season we’re working on ourselves and becoming a better team," Wilson added. "Our focus in working on the fundamentals and making the routine plays."

Now what Johnson’s coach describes as the "preseason" is over. The Knights play host to Pickens at 5:30 p.m. Monday, which starts the 24-game stretch of the Region 7-AAA schedule. Wilson thinks that his team can continue to improve if it focuses on fundamentals.

"We don’t want to make any excuses," Wilson said.

Rabun County took control of its game in Oakwood with a four-run fifth inning. The Wildcats sent nine batters to the plate in the fifth and scored a pair of runs when Derrick McDaniel’s single was not fielded cleanly in the outfield.

Jake Youngblood, Tim Webb and Corey Page also added RBI singles for Rabun County.

The Wildcats also got a strong pitching effort from Jim Bob Carver in 4 1/3 innings on the mound. Straight into a baseball uniform from basketball season, Carver had five strikeouts and allowed only four hits with his 71 pitches thrown. Zach Henderson came in and pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for Rabun County, preserving its win.

Nick Denard, Taylor Whitmire, Blake Stacey and Chris White each had a single for the Knights.

Pitching is clearly a strength for the Wildcats this season. McDaniel had 10 strikeouts and only allowed three hits in Rabun County’s 2-1 win against Hart County Monday.

"It’s so far, so good for us," Rabun County coach Mark Wilcox said. "I feel like our team is set pretty well defensively, we’re just still looking to see what spot guys are going to hit in the order before the Region (8-AA) schedule begins."

Rabun County still has some time before it opens the Region 8-AA schedule at Riverside Military on March 16. The Wildcats still have non-region games scheduled against Jackson County, Hart County, Towns County, Smoky Mountain (N.C.) and West Oak (S.C.) in the next three weeks. Wilcox says that there’s no easy games in 8-AA.

"It’s dog eat dog in this region," Rabun County’s coach said. "Any one in our region could play in any other (Class) AA region in the state."

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