A three-run home run by Jaylen Jackson proved to be the difference in a 6-2 Watson Chapel win over the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams in 5A-South Conference action on Thursday at Wildcat Field.
“I just told him try to stay inside the baseball,” Watson Chapel head coach Chad Cope said of Jackson’s plate appearance. “At that point and time, you weren’t thinking about a three-run shot there. He did a great job of getting the pitch up and doing what he can do with it.”
With the Wildcats leading 3-2 with two on and two outs in the sixth inning, Jackson deposited a 1-1 offspeed pitch over the scoreboard in left field to put the Wildcats ahead 6-2 late in the game.
“My coach just told me to get a base hit,” Jackson said of his approach to the plate. “He said just get on base and advance the runner. I was looking for a fastball, but he came inside with a changeup. I just wanted to hit the ball.”
Jackson also said he was thankful for the way the defense played all game which gave him the opportunity to deliver in a big spot.
“It’s all about the defense,” he said. “It’s all about the defense.”
After Jackson’s heroics, starting pitcher Justin Pierce came out in the seventh inning to close the game out with a 1-2-3 inning and earn a complete-game performance. Pierce finished the day allowing seven hits and two runs (one earned) with a walk and four strikeouts.
“He pitched well,” Cope said of Pierce. “He did well against De Queen and came back again. He hits his spots and lets the guys behind him work.”
Watson Chapel (11-5, 6-1 in 5A-South) moved into a tie for first place as they knocked Lakeside (10-7, 6-1) from the undefeated ranks in conference play. Rams’ starting pitcher Bo Ritter did all he could do in a complete-game effort as he allowed seven hits and six runs (four earned) with three walks and five strikeouts.
“I’m glad he is a senior so we won’t have to see him too much more,” Cope said with a laugh. “He does a great job of mixing speeds and hitting his spots.
“We had some big hits (Thursday) with two outs. Our seniors stepped up (Thursday) in some big spots.”
As both teams were scoreless heading into the fourth inning, Watson Chapel finally collected the first run of the game in the bottom half of the inning after Kirel Young delivered an RBI double with two outs. The Wildcats added two more runs in the fifth inning with help from two errors by the Rams’ shortstop.
Lakeside struck the scoreboard in the sixth inning with a mini two-out rally. Back-to-back doubles plated their first run and a throwing error by Josh Dardenne allowed a second run to score to cut the lead to 3-2. With runners at the corners, Pierce settled down and struck out the next batter to get out of the jam and set up Jackson’s big inning.
Other than the one error in the sixth inning, the Wildcats played a flawless game defensively to back up Pierce’s performance while coming through in some big spots including getting out of bases loaded jam in the fifth inning.
“We’re going to pitch to contact,” Cope said. “I think we only had one error the whole game and (Dardenne) will make that play 19 out of 20 times.”
Jackson led the Wildcats with three RBIs and two runs scored on a 1 for 4 performance, while Young finished the day 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI. The Rams were led at the plate by Dylan Carpenter who finished 2 for 2.
Watson Chapel 3, HS Lakeside 1
The Lady Wildcats only managed only three hits but made the most out of them to earn the 5A-South win.
Megan Moore hit a home run as she went 1 for 3, while Aungelique Sargeant and Maegan Greer both finished 1 for 2 for Watson Chapel (10-8, 4-3).
Greer took the win as she held the Lady Rams to just three hits of their own. Greer also struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.