Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman is hoping his Cardinals can get its third straight win for the first time this season when they play at Locust Grove Wednesday.
JONESBORO — There is a logjam toward the top of the Region 4-AAAA baseball standings, and neither Locust Grove or Jonesboro want any parts of it.
When the two schools meet in today’s 5:55 p.m. region clash, both squads will be looking to emerge with some momentum.
Not to mention a little consistency.
“We haven’t won more than two games in a row all season,” Maehlman said. “We have 10 games left in the region. To me the way the whole region looks, you can’t take anyone lightly. You’ve got to do whatever you can to try and find a way to win if you want to go to the state playoffs.”
Jonesboro’s current two-game winning streak has come in a 15-6, eight inning win against Woodland where they scored nine innings in the extra frame, and a 14-0 shutout against Eagle’s Landing.
The Cardinals (5-6, 5-5) are in the midst of its second two game winning streak of the season. Meanwhile, Locust Grove is trying to avoid back-to-back losses for the second time in its 2013 campaign.
The first matchup between the two teams was a pitcher’s dual where — a 1-0 Locust Grove win where the Wildcats gave up just one hit and Jonesboro pitcher Brandon Jackson surrendering only two.
Since then, both teams have begun to find a little heft in their bats. Locust Grove scored six runs in its losing effort against Griffin Friday. That preceded a 15-3 route against North Clayton last Wednesday.
Senior Jordan Hartman has been providing most the power behind the plate for the Wildcats so far. He leads the team in doubles and RBIs while hitting right at .500 for the season.
Jonesboro, in its five wins since that opening shutout, have averaged 12 runs per game. And for that reason, Phillips believes this rematch could be a different kind of contest.
“The first time we faced them it was the first game for both in the region,” Phillips said. “Neither one of us were where we needed to be. We’re still not where we want to be. We haven’t played Locust Grove baseball to this point. Jordan (Hartman) has become an important part of our offense now. I think our pitching staff is still our strength, and our defense has held us back a little bit this year.”
Junior right hander Dustin Kuhn will get the nod for Locust Grove today, while Jackson will go again for the Cardinals. Maehlman said he will probably work with a two man rotation between Jackson and senior Darian Alston for the rest of the year, due to a season ending injury of Dustin Boggs.
But he said that others would also have to be ready to go if called upon.
“We also have Dereon London who is a consistent pitcher for us,” Maehlman said. “He doesn’t throw as hard as the other guys, but he’s consistent. He’s going to have to step up and help fill in the gap left by Dustin.”
Philipps lauded Jonesboro for being a “very athletic” team that can cause damage once they can get on base.
But Maehlman said that may be easier said than done.
“Not just against Locust Grove, but in general, we have to find ways to manufacture runs,” Maehlman said.
Jonesboro senior Darian Alston was even more blunt about it.
“We can’t score runs and win games without base runners,” he said. “We have to play error-free baseball and get guys on base. I feel like I’ve gotta get on base anyway possible. If I get on base I know my team will score.”