Indians land first district crown in 10 years

Friday, May 17, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Neither rain nor Farmington could keep the Jackson Indians from their first district baseball championship in 10 years Thursday at American Legion Field.

Using a five-run first inning and the complete-game pitching of senior left-hander Josh Parham, Jackson lived up to its top-seed billing in Class 4A, District 1 with a 7-3 victory over second-seeded Farmington.

The rain falling over the final two innings, which gave way to a post-game downpour, was a bit symbolic as Jackson ended a lengthy drought with its first district title since 1992.

"It looks like a beautiful night to me," said a smiling Jackson coach Sam Sides as he looked out from the dugout at a field which was transformed from dirt to mud just minutes after the game. "We picked a good time to play one of our better games."

The Indians won the war on about every front, outhitting the Knights nine to seven and playing errorless defense. It was their first win against Farmington (14-9) in three district championship showdowns. The Knights, the defending district champion, last beat Jackson three years ago in the final.

"We've been waiting since our freshman year for this," said senior shortstop Bryan Austin. "We thought we might of had a chance last year, but this year we had a chance, definitely. This is our top win right here. We've got to go again next week, and that could be another one, but right now this is our best win ever."

Jackson improved to 14-6 and will visit the District 2 winner Thursday in a 4A sectional. House Springs Northwest (10-10) and Eureka (11-12) will play for the District 2 title today.

The Indians had reached the championship game with a 12-2 rout of Poplar Bluff on Wednesday, their first game in over a week since getting thumped 17-0 by Sikeston in the championship game of the SEMO Conference Tournament. Parham (5-1) didn't get out of the first inning against Sikeston, but bounced back with his second win over Farmington this year. The Indians had routed Farmington 17-3 earlier this season.

"We were kind of down after the loss in the championship game of the conference," Parham said. "But those kind of games just happen. There wasn't much we could about it. But we came out here today and made sure we were going to be at the top of our game, and we were. This is much better. I'd rather win this any other day than the SEMO Conference championship. This is so much bigger."

Farmington starter Kevin Crites, who pitched four innings in a 6-4 win over Hillsboro in Wednesday's semifinal, retired the first Indian in the bottom of the first, but Austin, Dusty Roberts, Brad Berry and Trevor Thompson followed with consecutive singles. Berry's hit scored Austin and Thompson's sharp single brought home two more to up the lead to 3-0. Jake Carter was then hit by a pitch and Parham lined out to center for the second out, but Austin McDowell lined a single to right to score Thompson and Carter for a 5-0 lead.

"We set a big tone that first inning," Austin said. "I think they kind of knew we were ready to play after that first inning."

Farmington, which loaded the bases in the third with one out but failed to score, broke through with two runs in the fourth and cut the lead to 5-3 in the fifth on a leadoff home run by Michael Hall. Parham then slammed the door on the Knights, retiring nine of the final 10 batters he faced. The Indians also scored two insurance runs in the fifth for a 7-3 lead.

Parham struck out five and walked two. The first two batters for Farmington, Nathan McKinney and Travis Thurston went a combined 5-for-8, but the remainder of the Knights were 2-for-20.

"Everything worked our way," Thompson said. "Parham pitched a heck of a game -- one of the best I've ever seen him throw."

Thompson went 2-for-4 for Jackson while McDowell finished 2-for-3.

"This is a big win and a good group of kids to do it with," Sides said. "They've kind of stuck together. They're mainly seniors in that starting group. Most of those kids played football and won the district championship. They have a competitive mentality to them. I was real happy for them. They really deserve to win."

jbreer@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 124

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