Written by Mark Davis.
With timely hits, determined base running and sterling pitching, Maynard Jackson High School’s varsity baseball team got spring break started with a win over long-time rival Grady High.
The Jaguars cruised past the Knights, 7-2, on a windy night on the eve of spring break. The March 31 match remained close until Jackson took advantage of a cluster of errors, widening a gap Grady could not bridge.
Sweetening the win: This game marked the debut of Jackson Cluster Intown Sluggers Baseball Night, the first-ever welcome to middle-school baseball players heading to MJHS.
With the win, the Jaguars are 7-8 in the region and 8-11 overall on the season.
The game left Head Coach Antonio Coger smiling – looking forward to what remains of the season, too. “No. 1, we won,” Coger said. “Anytime you win, that’s good.”
He also liked the discipline the Jaguars showed when the game got close. On a handful of occasions, with the Knights threatening, Jackson’s defense sent runners back to the dugout. And then? Coger smiled.“We put something together and we pulled away from them.”
DeAngelo Nowell, a study in grace, started the game as the Jaguars’ pitcher. In six innings, the freshman put on a defensive show, striking out four. Byron “B-Dog” Brinkley took over in the seventh. Whip-armed and wicked, he closed the game with two Ks.
Some standout moments: In the seventh inning, Julian Lipscomb blasted a bounding shot to center field. It was good for a stand-up double, as well as an RBI to make the score 5-2. Moments later, two Jackson runners took advantage of Grady errors to make the game 7-2.
With few exceptions, Jackson’s defenders sparkled. The players fielded sharp grounders. They snatched long flies out of the gathering darkness. In several innings, they left Grady runners stranded on third, standing on second.
Thus are baseball games won.
The night also was a win for the MJHS Boosters Club, sponsors of the Sluggers Night. Any kid showing up in a middle-school jersey from a school in the Jackson cluster got in free.
The boosters also opened the field at game’s end to the youngest potential Jaguars. With players clapping and parents smiling, a collection of kindergarten and elementary-school youngsters ran the base paths. In the immensity of that field, each child looked like a billiard ball, rolling fast across a green backdrop.
Alayna Blash, a co-chair of the baseball night, could only smile while the kids legged around the bases. One day, perhaps, those runners will wear Jackson’s maroon and gold. “I love the community support we got,” she said.
The win was lovely, too. At game’s end, with clouds flying hard and fast in the heavens, the Jaguars did the stuff they always do. They raked the base paths. They cleaned the dugouts. They took a knee and listened to their coaches relive, in detail, how the Jaguars took a bite out of the Knights. They did all that with an extra bounce in their steps, with a smile for their teammates. Call it Jaguar pride.
The Jags’ next challenge is a three-game series against North Springs, starting tonight, April 10th at North Springs. The next Varsity Home game will be on Wednesday, the 12th.