By Brad Morris
Coming into a Division II Southeast District sectional final on Wednesday, hits had been hard to come by against Jackson’s Bryson Brown.
Brown had surrendered just nine hits in 31 and two-third innings and sported a perfect 4-0 record.
Circleville drove Brown from the game with a seven-run sixth and went on to stun state third-ranked and top-seeded Jackson with a 9-2 win.
“This felt a lot like our game against Waverly from Monday. It took us a time through the batting order to feel Brown out and then we started doing a good job of attacking pitches and being pretty zoned in at the plate,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said. “Our guys did a nice job of putting it together, finishing and beat a very good baseball team.”
The eighth-seeded Tigers (15-11) advance to a district semifinal for the first time since 2019 on Monday when they travel to Ohio University and face former South Central Ohio League rival Washington Court House. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.
Brown struck out four of the first nine batters he faced, but the visiting Tigers eventually drew a beat on the right-hander. The Jackson senior didn’t retire a batter in the sixth and finished the night yielding the Tigers six hits and six earned runs in taking his first loss of the season.
Wyatt Thatcher led the Tigers by going 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Austin Gray singled and drove in two runs, Drew Thornsley doubled and scored twice and Matt Bradley singled, drove in a run and also scored twice.
Jackson (20-4) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second when Landon Camp smashed a line drive over the center field fence for a two-run homer.
The Tigers countered in the third to make it a 2-1 game.
Bradley reached on a bunt single with one out, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on an infield single off the bat of Thatcher.
Circleville tied the game in the fifth when Thornsley doubled to right, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brown and scored on a wild pitch.
The Tigers then unloaded on Brown and the Ironmen in the sixth, forcing Jackson to use three pitchers to finally stop the offensive. Circleville sent 11 batters to the plate, assembled five hits and took advantage of three walks.
“We did a nice job of being patient at the plate,” Bigam said. “We hit the ball pretty well in the inning, but that didn’t affect our patience. We were patient when we saw pitches that we didn’t like and took some important walks.”
Back-to-back singles to left by Thatcher and Nick Burns opened the inning and Angelo Travis reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Logan Smith then watched four balls sail by to force in Thatcher and put the Tigers ahead to stay at 3-2.
Austin Gray greeted reliever Lane Erwin’s first pitch with a single to center to drive in both Burns and Travis.
Back-to-back walks to Thornsley and Bradley forced in Smith to make it a 6-2 game.
One out later against reliever Gaven Jones, Scott Moats hit an RBI ground out to first that scored Thornsley from third.
Thatcher capped the outburst with his second hit of the inning on a double to left that chased home both Bradley and West.
Carsen Cox used 91 pitches to throw a complete game. He allowed five hits, two earned runs, walked two and struck out nine.
“Carsen missed on a 1-2 fastball by not getting it inside enough and (Camp) made him pay for it,” Bigam said. “Other than that, Carsen was just excellent for us.
“He did a good job of attacking the strike zone and using his fastball and when he got behind then he did a nice job of throwing his breaking ball.”
The Tigers now turn their attention to the other co-champion of the Frontier Athletic Conference, the Blue Lions (16-5), which routed New Lexington 10-1 also on Wednesday.
The two teams met in the opening week of the season with Washington Court House claiming an 8-4 win. In that game, the Tigers uncharacteristically walked nine batters and hit three more.
“This was a good win for us, but the good thing is we can still clean up a few things mentally and execution wise,” Bigam said. “When you put up seven runs on a pretty good pitcher and put it together against the quality of team that Jackson has, it should show our guys that we have the ability to win some games when we do those things.”