GREENFIELD — Just three seasons ago, Jackson was a program with low expectations and finished tied for last in the FAC.
However, after undergoing some changes and adopting a new mentality, it can now call itself ‘champion’.
The Ironmen rallied for six runs in the top of the seventh and pulled out an 8-4 victory over McClain on Wednesday, clinching a share of the FAC title with Miami Trace for the first time in school history.
“Coming in my freshman year, we were a below .500 team with zero expectations, and still didn’t meet those expectations,” Jackson’s Isaac Kuhn said. “It was poor and terrible baseball. And not having a season last year hurt because we felt we had a bunch of talent. But once this season hit, we knew we had one job and that was to win.”
Dating back to last season pre-pandemic, Jackson has been on a mission to accomplish what hadn’t been done before.
And now sitting at 16-2 on the season, its defeated the likes of Unioto, Miami Trace, Minford, Adena, Hillsboro and pushed Division I Lakota East to the final out.
The FAC title is the second thing (winning season) the Ironmen are able to cross off their checklist this season.
“When Coach (Josh) McGraw came in, everything changed with the snap of a finger,” Jackson’s Ty Broermann said. “He’s got that type of moxie and it just rubbed off on us. We’re not afraid to play anyone and I think that’s a big part of why we’ve had the success we’ve had.”
Jackson’s Bryson Brown and McClain’s Mason Ratcliff took turn slicing and dicing through each other’s lineups as neither team truly caught up to each pitcher.
Brown threw five innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six batters before giving way to Drew Bragg to close.
Ratcliff on the other hand had Jackson batters off balance and confused by using a mix of off speed pitches alongside a fast-paced rhythm to keep hitters uncomfortable.
Although he took the loss in 6 1/3 innings, he dominated for six full innings where he allowed just two hits and struck out eight batters before Jackson caught up to him.
“That kid is good, like really good. He’s a kid I’d want on my team, that’s for sure,” Jackson coach Josh McGraw said. “All credit to him, he threw the ball incredibly well and kept us off balance all game. McClain as a team is really young, but they just battle and don’t quit. They made us work for it and dig down to get this win.”
It wasn’t until the fourth inning that Jackson scored the first runs of the game after three straight fielding errors by McClain plated two runs, giving the Ironmen a 2-0 lead.
However, the Tigers caught up to Brown and answered back in the bottom of the fifth. They scored first off a bases loaded walk before Isaac Smith notched a deep sacrifice fly to center field, tying the game 2-2.
Ratcliff continued to hold down Jackson, while Bragg was tasked with trying to take away McClain’s momentum.
But the Tigers wouldn’t be denied in the bottom of the sixth. With two runners on and two outs, Seth Weller came up with a clutch two-run single to right center field to put them ahead 4-2.
“In all honesty, our energy and effort in the sixth was pretty poor,” Broermann said. “But heading into the seventh, we weren’t out of it so me and Isaac stepped up as captains and told the guys we’ve been in situations like this before, so this isn’t anything new.”
Following two fielding errors and a hit by pitch, the bases were loaded and momentum officially shifted.
Holden Blankenship and Kuhn ripped back-to-back RBI singles to tie the game, then Broermann stepped up and laced a two-run single back up the middle that put the Ironmen ahead 6-4.
“I was pulling a lot, and he threw me a curveball so I knew that I had to take it backside,” Broermann said. “I hit it just the pitcher and it made it to the outfield. Great base running by the guys as well.”
Two batters later, Caeleb McGraw added insurance runs with a two-run single into right center field before Bragg put the final nail in the coffin, securing their share of the title.
“I’m so happy for our seniors. These guys have been playing, and some starting since they were freshman,” Josh McGraw said. “They’ve been through the high and lows, they deserve to win a league title. It’s a pretty special accomplishment.”
Broermann finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, followed by Caeleb McGraw going 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Kuhn and Blankenship each had a hit and an RBI, while Bragg earned the win in two innings.
For McClain, Weller finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs, while Smith and Carson Spangler had an RBI each.
Jackson returns to action on Friday at Rock Hill, while McClain hosts Adena on Monday.