Quality defense helps Cougars move through limelight
Jefferson had 30 wins during its successful regular season run through its schedule.
The most consistently helpful part of its team has been the defense, a sometimes overlooked piece of any team’s winning puzzle.
It’s easy to see why the Cougars don’t often lose; they rarely make damaging errors that would make Coach John Lowery say, “We beat ourselves.”
In its first Class AAA, Region 2, Section 2 game of the postseason, the Cougars displayed a more potent offense than did victim Musselman. The Jefferson pitching threw more strikes. But the most noticeable difference between the two teams was when comparing the defenses.
Any time Musselman threatened against pitcher Charlie Barnholt (four innings in Jefferson’s 10-0 mercy-rule win), there was a Cougar outfielder on the prowl to make a circus catch and bury the Applemen rally.
There was a Musselman runner at second base, when Nic Haman drilled a long fly over the head of Jefferson center fielder Wil Oliver. Oliver retreated and made a over-the-shoulder catch with his back to the infield. Inning over!
After Devon Berry led the Musselman fifth with a ringing double off Jefferson reliever Austin Bulman, Jefferson left fielder Brody Price quickly tracked down Trey Stamey’s liner to the fence for the inning’s first out.
Barnholt fanned three in his four fruitful innings. Bulman didn’t have a strikeout.
Jefferson didn’t commit an error. The Cougars had to get only 15 outs because they had enough runs to end the game early on the “10-run rule”, but with Paul Witt at shortstop, Joe Mills catching, Chase Crockett in right and Andrew King at second there are other quality defenders spread across the field.
Jefferson already had eight runs after its first two turns. Oliver, Witt, King and Barnholt had hits in the first-inning uprising and five more runs poured across the plate in the second.
Musselman was gone from the tournament, having already lost, 10-0, to Washington in another mercy-rule game the day before.
Making the most of its 17 baserunners — nine hits, three stolen bases — Jefferson went on to its next game on Saturday where Washington was ready with its 1-0 tournament record.