Jackson Prep defeated Jackson Academy in the Academy AAAA Division I title series opener on Tuesday in a 6-5 thriller.
Looking at the box score of Tuesday’s opening game of the MAIS AAAA-Division I title series between rivals Jackson Academy and Jackson Prep, one might assume Chris Russell’s grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning was the game’s most important play.
This would be an inaccurate assumption because though it was a big moment, it was not the most pivotal. That’s because Russell made contact again in the game, but it won’t go in the books as a hit.
With two runners on base in the final frame of the game, the senior hit a chopper to short that was mishandled by a JA infielder. The error provided enough time for Chance Lovertich to slide safely into home plate and seal a 6-5 victory for the Patriots on their home field.
“He was really big, but that’s what seniors do,” Jackson Prep coach Brent Heavener said of Russell. “It doesn’t bother him, the stage doesn’t bother him. He just went up there and he battled and he was able to have a great night tonight, and that’s what seniors do this time of year.”
How it happened
Raiders starting pitcher Sam Ciaccio gave Prep fits with pinpoint placement of his pitches on the inside corners for most of the game. In the top of the third, Ciaccio got some early run support by way of an RBI-single from Trent Tyre. Jackson Academy chipped in another run in the next inning on a liner between second and third base by Hunt Stevens to extend its advantage to 2-0.
The Patriots finally showed some offensive firepower in what was a crucial frame in the sixth inning. Kelly Crumpton put the first score on the board with an RBI-single, then Russell’s grand slam put Prep ahead 5-2.
“I just knew I had to make a big hit for my team because this was probably a turning point of the game. It was just the right pitch for me and I just drove it over,” Russell said.
Jackson Academy wasn’t ready to bow out just yet, though, and responded the very next frame. Tyre tacked on three more RBIs with a base-clearing double to tie the game at 5. However, the Raiders could not plate any more runs in the inning which allowed Prep to seal the deal in thrilling fashion in the game’s final frame.
“We kind of expected to have a battle on our hands,” Jackson Academy coach Jay Powell said. “They’ve got a great ball club. You’ve got two clubs just going at each other hard and they’re evenly matched. They got a hit when they needed, made a play when they needed it and we just couldn’t do that.”
The series now shifts to Jackson Academy, where Game 2 is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday If necessary, Game 3 will follow immediately after.