MOUNT VERNON — Seven may be a lucky number, but for the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets their luck, and their season, ran out.
The Zanesville Blue Devils were lifted by a seven-run second inning and rode the arm of their ace pitcher, Colten Maxwell, who wears uniform No. 7, to a 7-5 victory over the Jackets in their Division I Sectional matchup at Yellow Jacket Stadium on Thursday.
Firing six strikeouts and scattering a dozen hits, Maxwell and the Devils hung the first home loss on the Yellow Jackets for 2009.
“I’ve got to give Maxwell credit,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “He did a good job against us. It took us three or four innings before we started getting to him a little bit. He held a pretty good offensive team to five runs, so hats off to him.”
After breezing through the first inning, Mount Vernon starting pitcher Luke Wilson had a nightmarish second inning where the Blue Devils sent 10 men to the plate. Luke Wilson gave up three walks, hit a batter and yielded three hits in the inning and left the game with the bases loaded and only one out.
Ben Severns was brought in to pitch in relief and gave up a bases-clearing three-run double by shortstop Wade Kaido to make it 6-0. All three runs were charged to Luke Wilson. Kaido later scored on a Maxwell sacrifice fly to center. That would be the only trouble for Severns, who faced the minimum number of batters the rest of the way.
Seven innings was just not enough time to mount a full comeback against Maxwell. The Jackets, however, did chip away at the Devils’ lead, grabbing a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Catcher Aaron Watts led off with a single. Maxwell drilled right fielder Brian Hoar with a two-strike pitch. Jackets’ shortstop Kolton Wilson loaded the bases with a single. Designated hitter Derek Baker grounded to short to force Wilson, scoring Watts on the play. Baker was, in turn, forced at second when center fielder Robert Kane grounded to second. Hoar scored to make it a 7-2 Zanesville lead.
“I just can’t say enough about the way we competed, but we just got down a little too far today to a pretty good pitcher,” said Savage.
In the fifth, Kolton Wilson singled and scored on a pinch single by Cody Green to make it 7-3.
In the sixth, with Watts aboard, Hoar hit a smash to left that went for a triple. Devils’ left fielder Michael Lynn misplayed the ball, allowing Hoar to cross the plate with the Jackets’ fifth run. Green doubled with two-out and the Jackets looked like they were going for more. Jackets’ center fielder Robert Kane grounded to Zanesville second baseman Zack Pollock, whose throw nearly pulled first baseman Austin Miller off the bag at first. It was very close but the speedy Kane was called out at first to end the inning.
“We could have had two on with Justin Edwards coming up in that situation,” said Savage. “The throw pulled (Miller) off the bag. It was just a matter of whether he caught the ball before his foot came off. I thought he did, but the umpire saw it the other way and that’s just the way it goes.”
The Jackets had one more shot in the seventh. Mount Vernon first baseman Justin Edwards and left fielder Ty Benson both reached on singles and moved into scoring position with two outs. Unfortunately, it was No. 7 who got Watts to pop out to the shortstop to end the game and bring the curtain down on the Jackets’ season.
“We had a chance with runners in scoring position,” said Savage. “We needed one more hit and Aaron was already 3-for-3. We were going to send the runners and test (Zanesville’s) arms from the outfield on a single, but we just didn’t get it. It wasn’t to be.”
It was a season, however, that has left the Jackets with much to be proud of.
“We had a great year,” said Savage. “We won 20 games. That’s hard to do. We only lost four games all year long. This is our first loss on this field and that hit home pretty hard. We won an OCC championship with an 11-1 record. We just had one bad inning today. We won more innings than they did, but they won the big inning.”
Savage will lose eight seniors from a team that has had a special bond.
“This was a great bunch of kids to be around,” said Savage. “They were fun everyday. There was no in-fighting. They loved the game. We’re losing eight good seniors. We also had nine good juniors, so we had an old team. All of them really contributed and we are going to miss our seniors. This team was a good group of competitors that loved to win. They loved the feeling that winning brings to you.”
The Jackets are also looking ahead as they replenish from an undefeated jayvee team.
“Graduation is going to hit us pretty hard but we also have some good juniors coming along behind them,” said Savage. “The door opens up for more of those guys, now. They’ve got some big shoes to fill. But they’ll do everything they can to fill them.”