In the second of two games Thursday, Jackson Christian baseball coach Chuck Cooper wanted to give his younger players some opportunities to play.
Jackson Christian will try to defend its Class A state championship this year, and it’s important for Cooper to see how all his players handle chances late in the game.
Sometimes the best approach is patience, and Jackson Christian’s hitters waited patiently as Chester County relievers had a meltdown that changed the course of the game.
Chester County pitchers walked six batters and plunked two more all in the fifth inning. The host Eagles, who trailed by five, scored six runs as a result to beat the visiting ones from Henderson, 7-6.
Chester County fell to 5-3.
“We had a lot of young guys in the game. Just real proud of them continuing to compete,” Cooper said. “They went to the plate confident in their approach, looking for the pitch they were looking for, and they did a great job swinging at the ones that were there and taking the ones that weren’t.”
Near the end, most weren’t. Jackson Christian (13-2) batted around in the fifth inning, as a trio of Chester relievers failed to support starter Drew Hill (four innings, one run) and uphold a 6-1 lead.
Hayden Love walked to open the fifth and Ethan Joyner doubled. After an out, Caleb Rice was hit, Nick Jackson hit a sac fly to score Love, Zach Rice walked and Hunter Allen was hit.
Then Collin Cantrell, Trey Rast, Lowe and Joyner all walked, the last three doing so with the bases loaded to score a run each.
Sophomore Ethan Joyner pitched the final four innings for Jackson Christian. To finish the game, he struck out Chester County’s top-of-the-order hitters Nick Armour, Malcolm Tipler and Collin McPherson, the latter two looking.
“Sticking to my same approach and going at ’em,” Joyner said, when asked about his thought process entering that inning. “Focusing on my own confidence and not caring how great everybody thinks they are, just focusing on ‘I’m No. 1 whenever I’m up there.'”
Earlier Thursday, Jackson Christian beat Trinity Christian Academy 5-4. Jackson Christian used throws from outfielder Miles Humphreys to infielder Hunter Higdon and from Higdon to catcher Carson Parker to put out the potential game-tying runner.
“We played one lineup one game and the second game a different lineup, and there was no energy lost,” Cooper said. “Everybody’s in the game, pulling for their teammates. It’s truly a team dynamic, and these guys are just a lot of fun to coach.”
Jackson Christian starter Nick Jackson allowed four runs in the first three innings of the Chester County game, as Armour and Tipler used a walk and hit by pitch to set up Collin McPherson with a two-run double. Hunter Denbow’s RBI groundout gave Chester County a quick 3-0 lead.
Jackson doubled to left in the second for Jackson Christian, scoring Caleb Rice.
McPherson scored again in the third after walking, advancing to third and then scoring on a strikeout when the ball got away. Armour and Denbow scored later, but those runs weren’t enough given the Jackson Christian rally to come.
“It’s a process. We want to get a little better each and every day,” Cooper said. “And we feel like if we do that, man, we can have another fun time in the month of May. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Craig Thomas, 425-9634