DANDRIDGE — A small play here and a small play there. That’s what Jefferson County has been about this season and nothing changed in the first round of the District 2-AAA tournament on Thursday against Morristown East.
The four-seeded Patriots of Jefferson County took advantage of whatever was given to them by the fifth-seeded Hurricanes to string together their 10-5 victory at home.
“There was nothing crazy happening for us at the plate,” head coach Zach Reese of Jefferson County said. “We were just able to take what (East) gave us and roll with it. We had a few hits here and there but it was really all about getting it done by taking what we got. It was just the same old game we like to play.”
East (6-22) had to put up a fight without its head coach J.D. Newsom as he serves his two-game suspension. Newsom was removed from Monday’s game against Daniel Boone but will have the opportunity to coach his team again if the ‘Canes can pull out a win in the consolation bracket. Assistant Coach Tyler Ebright filled in as acting coach for Newsom.
“It was interesting out here without Newsom,” Ebright said. “The guys came out a lot better than I anticipated. This team came out ready to fight today and through the first few innings, I thought we did a great job at that. They wanted to put up a fight for their coach tonight. We wanted to take what Newsom always teaches us and apply it to the game.”
The ‘Canes will face the loser of No. 2 Sevier County and No. 3 South Doyle on Saturday at noon in an elimination game.
Jefferson County (18-12) advances to the quarterfinals of the winner’s bracket where it will be on the road tonight against No. 1 Seymour at 6 p.m.
“We have to stick to the script,” Reese said. “We have had some success in this tournament and our goal is to make it out of this tournament and get to the region tournament. We aren’t thinking about the regular-season games against Seymour. We know how good they are but it is a new day tomorrow and you never know with the game of baseball.”
The Patriots scored a run in each of the three innings, then racked up five runs in the fifth inning thanks to two errors by East.
“We took advantage of what was going on out there,” Reese said. “I thought the baserunning was very good today. Especially there in the fifth inning. We were able to get some guys on base and they found their way home. Nothing special. We just made smart decisions.”
Hunter Thompson of the ‘Canes also allowed three hitters on base after hitting them with a pitch in the fifth. Thompson finished the game with four strikeouts but allowed 10 runs.
However, Ebright was happy to see his pitcher continue to battle through the adversity.
“Thompson gave us a chance and we were happy with the way he threw it, overall,” Ebright said. “He’s got to be able to clean up his mistakes pretty quickly in games like this. We also have to make plays behind him. Thompson punked a couple of batters in key situations but overall, he’s our guy and we will be behind him.”
Beau Revord pitched for the Patriots for 5.2 innings. He struck out five and allowed one run but his defense was right behind him.
Jefferson County took a 10-1 advantage over East after the fifth inning, with only three of the runs driven in by hits.
Tanner Franklin led the Patriots in RBIs with his two, after going 1-for-3 at the plate. Owen Grimsley went 2-for-3 and also drove in a run.
The ‘Canes did give Reese a scare in the final inning as they strung together four runs and four hits. Unfortunately, it was a little too late for the bats to get hot as East tried to erase the nine-run deficit.
Jesse Hasse led the way for East at the plate after going 2-for-3 and managing two RBIs on the day. Hasse’s RBI double in the fifth highlighted the six hits for East.
“We felt like we had a chance to get into this game no matter the score,” Ebright said. “We were in it the whole way. We just had to cut down on mistakes. We are happy with the way we swung the bats at the end. It just took a little too long for us to get into it.”
East cut Jefferson County’s advantage to only five runs, though, which marked the closest game the two have had against each other this season.