GRAY -- Going to the plate with a purpose has been Jason Page’s recent reminder to his Jones County players.
Facing Houston County pitcher Tanner Hall in the third inning Saturday, the purpose was patience.
That strategy helped key a 5-2 Jones County victory in an important GHSA Region 2-AAAAA contest.
With Hall struggling to locate the strike zone, the Greyhounds capitalized on four walks to go along with a leadoff single and later error to score four two-out runs.
“One of the things we’ve been stressing is getting up there with an idea of what you’re trying to do,” said Page, whose team upped its home mark to 10-0. “We’ve been pretty patient at the plate, and it’s helped us have more quality at-bats.”
Other than that uprising, the game was one of single runs, one by each team in the first inning and the final run by the Bears in the seventh.
“(Jones) pitched well and competed a little more than we did (Saturday),” Houston County head coach Jason Brett said. “We struggled in that one inning, and that was the difference in the ballgame, really. But sometimes that’s all it takes.”
The win moved the Greyhounds (15-2, 5-1 region) within a half-game of the Bears (10-8, 6-1) in the region standings. The teams meet at Houston County on Friday but first must pass other region tests earlier in the week.
“Tuesday and Wednesday (at Northside and Warner Robins, respectively) are just as important as (Saturday’s) win was,” Page said. “You can’t let any slip away at this point.”
Houston County is at home with Warner Robins on Tuesday before welcoming the Greyhounds for the region finale.
“If we can both take care of business, it would set up a very nice baseball game on Friday,” said Brett, whose team won the first meeting 6-5 on an unearned run in the eighth inning. “But first things first, and that’s Warner Robins.”
Jacob Walden won for the fifth time in six decisions for Jones County. The right-hander allowed a run on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in five innings, leaving after two hitters reached in the top of the sixth.
Chandler Ramage came on there to get his second save, quelling the threat with a double-play grounder and a fly out.
“Our pitchers threw strikes, and we got some big outs and a couple of double plays,” said Page, whose team’s lone error was negated when Ramage got the double-play grounder. “It wasn’t like we hit it around the park. It was one of those type of games where -- fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the side you’re on -- where capitalizing on a mistake or two is the difference.”
Houston County took a 1-0 lead in the first when Hunter Phillips delivered a two-out single to score D.L. Hall, who had singled and moved up on a walk to Jeremiah Stephens. Walden, however, stranded them when shortstop Brooks Veal made a nifty play on Austin Hittinger’s grounder.
“I thought we might get another one out of that inning, but their shortstop made a really good play,” Brett said. “They made a few good ones when they needed them.”
The Greyhounds tied it in the bottom of the inning when Ramage led off with a walk and Walden singled. After a sacrifice, Walker Juhan singled home Ramage.
Jones County sent nine men to the plate in the decisive third that began with a single from Ramage. After a sacrifice by Walden and a walk to Veal, Hall got Juhan on strikes.
The left-hander unraveled there, walking Keaton Gordon, Zach Griffin and Teldrick Ross to make it 3-1. Third baseman Jake Fromm couldn’t handle Keever Walker’s ground ball, allowing the final two runs to score.
“You gotta make plays, and you have to throw strikes,” Brett said. “Normally, we do a good job with that. We played decent enough but struggled that inning, and that was enough.”
The Bears didn’t really threaten again until the sixth, when Ramage ended that threat. They scored their final run when Andy Moore opened with a single, was balked to second and scored an out later on a single by Josh Profit.
Ramage, however, ended the game with a strikeout and a fly out.