When Rutland lost to Jackson just a week ago, the Hurricanes knew that their chances of winning the GHSA Region 2-AAA title were over.
But with a doubleheader Wednesday against Taylor County and getting right back on the field at home against Jackson on Thursday, Rutland head coach Wally Pritchard looked at it as a perfect way for his team to get ready for the Class AAA tournament, which features best-of-three series.
After splitting with Taylor County, the Hurricanes played solid baseball throughout and defeated Jackson 11-5, giving the Red Devils their first region loss of the season.
“We went through a stretch where we didn’t play very good baseball, but we seem to be coming out of it at the right time,” said Pritchard, whose team will host the first round of the playoffs that start May 1. “I thought we got great pitching and timely hitting, but the most important part was we played great defense. To beat a great team like Jackson is a great way to head into the state playoffs.”
Codie Rozier, Malik Bond and Brycen Taylor all had two hits for the Hurricanes, while Nick Simmons and Bond combined to hold Jackson to seven hits. Rutland ends regular-season play with a 16-9 record and a 12-3 record in the region while Jackson dropped to 20-4 and 15-1 in the region.
Rutland scored once in the first inning, mainly due to Rozier. The senior shortstop led off with a single, stole second and third and came home on a Will Scruggs groundout. Jackson tied the game in the third on a Rhett Carroll double, and he scored on an Austin Smith double.
Rutland took the lead back when Scruggs scored from second on a Taylor double, but Jackson answered, scoring twice in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. Rutland, however, answered right back, scoring five times in the bottom half of the inning to take a 7-3 lead.
Bond, who came in to pitch in the fifth inning when Simmons faltered, gave up one run in the sixth, but the Rutland offense put four more runs on the board to maintain a comfortable lead. The Hurricanes had 10 hits in the game.
“I thought the fifth inning was the key because we lost the lead for the first time of the night, but we were able to answer right back,” Pritchard said. “We were hoping this game was going to be for a region championship, but things didn’t work out that way. But I feel good about the way we have played the last few games, and it will be good to get a home series in the state playoffs. “