Jackson powers Houston County to state title

jheeter@macon.comJune 11, 2014 

HoCoBaseball

Blake Jackson, who hit .500 with 11 home runs to lead Houston County to the GHSA Class AAAAA baseball title, is The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia GHSA Baseball Player of the Year.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

WARNER ROBINS -- Blake Jackson presents quite an intimidating visual for an imposing pitcher.

The Houston County senior has the body of a major leaguer, and it’s pretty easy to tell he hasn’t missed many workout sessions.

“I don’t think it would be fun to try to get him out,” Houston County pitcher Jordan McIlwain said in May.

Fewer than half the pitchers Jackson faced could actually accomplish that goal.

Jackson, The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia GHSA Baseball Player of the Year, mashed his way to a memorable season and helped lead Houston County to its first state championship and the county’s first baseball championship in 23 years.

The third baseman hit .500 (39-of-78) with a .602 on-base percentage. He was hit by a pitch or walked 26 times. He had more extra-base hits (23) than singles (17) and scored 42 runs. He drilled 11 home runs, including one in three of the Bears’ final four playoff series.

“He’s a guy that really understands how to hit,” Houston County head coach Jason Brett said. “He has a great approach at the plate. He’s patient, because not a lot of guys are pitching to him.”

Jackson, who has signed with Georgia Tech, discovered early in his senior season that opposing teams would be hesitant to pitch to him. He started receiving intentional walks, and the ones who did pitch to him didn’t give him much to see with many pitches off the plate.

The Bears’ No. 4 hitter, Hunt Smith, was often the beneficiary of the careful approach around Jackson. In fact, Whitewater intentionally walked Jackson to load the bases in Game 3 of the state championship series, and Smith smacked a grand slam.

“I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind me in the lineup,” said Jackson, who also drew interest from Alabama, Florida State, N.C. State and Vanderbilt. “I’ll take the base. It doesn’t frustrate me.”

But some pitchers challenged Jackson, and others missed their spots. Jackson usually made those pitchers pay.

Jackson drilled a home run off Gainesville’s Michael Gettys -- who was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Padres in the Major League Baseball draft -- to help push the Bears to a win the opener of the state semifinals.

“I like hitting good pitching,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’m better against good pitching.”

Jackson hit another bomb a week later in the championship series against Whitewater.

With the Bears sagging in Game 2 following a heartbreaking loss earlier in the day, Jackson hit a game-tying home run that helped propel the Bears to the win. The ball exploded off his bat, carrying over the fence in left-center, past a row of trucks behind the fence and a row of trees behind the trucks and landed more than 400 feet from home plate.

“He is probably the most dangerous hitter in the state,” Bears senior Justin Jones said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do on the mound against him.”

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