Jackson puts pressure on defense to create scoring chances

Thursday, May 3, 2007
Jackson pitcher Logan Lawson bunted to move Rex Meyr to second base during Monday night's SEMO Conference final. Lawson was the winning pitcher in all three tournament games for the Indians. (Fred Lynch)

The Indians scored 31 runs on their way to the SEMO tourney title.

Pitching and defense wins championships? They didn't compare to speed and scoring for Jackson during the SEMO Conference tournament.

The Indians (14-7) put up 31 runs to sweep Notre Dame, second-seeded Central and top-seeded Sikeston in a four-day span to capture their first conference tournament title.

Third-seeded Jackson capped the run with an 8-6 victory in nine innings Monday night against Sikeston. Pitching and defense were exhibited in that game as the teams were deadlocked 2-2 through eight innings, but Jackson broke open the floodgates in the ninth with six runs.

"It's nice to see the scoring we've had lately," Jackson coach Rex Crosnoe said. "That had not been our team's makeup over the year. The kids maybe are getting in a groove.

"The offense has really been coming on since our trip down south over Easter. Our strikeouts have been cut down and we've put the ball in play, which is something we really stress: Put the ball in play and test the other team's defense."

The test doesn't end there. The Indians like to pressure the other team by running. Jackson stole seven bases against Sikeston -- four in the final uprising, during which the Indians also executed a perfect hit-and-run. Also not included in the total was a balk forced by aggressive baserunning.

A stolen base played a big role Saturday in the seventh inning of Jackson's 11-10 semifinal victory against Central.

"When you have players that have speed, you can use it," Crosnoe said. "We try to manufacture runs, move guys over, get a steal and then get a basehit to score a run."

In the pivotal seventh inning against Central, after the Tigers had come all the way back from a 10-0 deficit, leadoff hitter Luke Crader reached base on a walk. He stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, allowing him to score the winning run on an error.

Crader was held in check Monday, but No. 2 hitter Rex Meyr was not.

"Keeping Luke off base is a task. He and Rex are neck and neck as our leading hitters," Crosnoe said. "Luke not being on base was a rarity but Rex hit some balls hard, got on and stole some bases."

The senior had three hits, a walk, scored twice and stole two bases. He also advanced on the balk, and in the last inning he was running when Logan Lawson singled into right field. While Meyr motored to third, Lawson took second on the throw. Not long after that, Meyr stole home as Lawson swiped third.

Crosnoe also was impressed by two other baserunning moves by Meyr. After he went to second on the balk in the third inning, he did not get doubled off on Lawson's line drive and later came in to score on Andy Winkleblack's hit. And in the eighth inning, after he was sacrificed to second base, he took third on a deep fly to left, although he was stranded.

"That's just instincts on his part," Crosnoe said. "Their second baseman made a diving catch on a line drive and a lot of other guys would have gotten doubled up. He recognized it was a line drive and froze. Then on the deep flyball, not many people would think that ball would be caught, but he tagged up and got to third."

Jackson has a streak of six wins in its last seven games, which could help the team earn a first-round bye when the Class 4, District 1 tournament is seeded this weekend.

"To get that bye is important," Crosnoe said. "It saves an arm. And it's one extra game, and you never know in high school baseball. To win a state championship in Missouri, you've got to have a good team, and luck has to go your way. It's not always the best team that wins."

Crosnoe hopes the conference tournament's similarities to the district tourney will play out in a similar ending.

"We were able to pull out some dramatic wins," he said. "So many teams had a chance of winning it, and the district is like that. It's so open."

The Indians were able to use ace Logan Lawson for three innings in a one-sided win against Notre Dame on Monday and for two innings in relief against Central before he threw five innings in relief Monday. He earned the wins in all three games.

That strategy won't be employed at district time.

"It just worked out that way, but hopefully in the district, he'll throw seven and keep us in a ballgame," Crosnoe said. "The district is one-and-done, so you've got to throw your best."

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