Jackets baseball set to face tough test in playoffs
North Augusta High School’s varsity baseball team didn’t want the regular season to end this way.The Jackets (9-12, 3-7 Region 5-AAAA) dropped both of their games this week. The first came against Aiken, 6-4, last Tuesday. The second came on Monday night against Dutch Fork, 9-4.However, the season still is not over for the team. The Jackets will be in the playoffs Thursday as a No. 4 seed and have to travel to West Florence.Zach Jarvis went 3-for-4 with two of the Jackets’ RBIs against Aiken. Ryan Love was chased after 3 ? innings pitched. Love gave up six runs, three earned, and issued seven walks with no strikeouts.The Hornets led 6-0 after four innings, but the Jackets battled back to make the game interesting. The damage was already done, and the deficit was too large to overcome, but the team’s ability to keep fighting impressed their coach."They could have tucked their tails and not performed at the end," Vic Radcliff, North Augusta head coach, said. "As I told them, you don’t win in the first inning. You have to play seven innings. The positive side is that we did fight at the end and we ended up making something good happen. It set us up in a position to tie the ballgame or win it. So you have to look at that side also."Love also suffered the loss on Monday against Dutch Fork. Zach Wilson and Jake Nelson both ended up going 2-for-4 at the plate.Momentum has gotten away from the Jackets after the team had to rally late against Greenbrier (Ga.). Like their counterparts on the softball diamond, however, the team will have its record thrown out in a win-or-go-home situation at West Florence.In that game, the likely pitching matchup will be North Augusta’s Jake Nelson against West Florence’s Akeem Bostick. Bostick, who Radcliff said "runs it up there pretty good," is committed to two colleges Spartanburg Methodist College and Georgia Southern. Bostick has been clocked throwing a 93 mph fastball.Nelson may not have the heater to match his counterpart, but he does have the full confidence of his coach."He’s really stepped up this season after we had the injury to Jake McCormick, who we projected to be our No. 1," Radcliff said. "Jake Nelson has really pitched well for us and he’s worked hard. I think he’s going to have an opportunity to pitch at the college level."Having played in such a tough region, however, the Jackets will enter the playoffs tested."I was talking to the Dutch Fork coach and they played Greenwood the other night," Radcliff said. "Greenwood was No. 1 in their region and they went up there and beat them like 12-1. He was just comparing our region to their region. Now, in the playoffs, if you go out there and execute and play fundamental baseball, you might have a chance."Pointing to last year’s team, which played Ashley Ridge on the road, a team with three D-1 signees, the Jackets were winning going into the final inning. Due to some defensive mistakes, the Jackets ended up getting knocked out, and Radcliff wants his team to stay focused so that if the opportunity presents itself, the team won’t get caught off guard again."We had them beat, and they ended up winning the state championship in AAAA baseball last year," Radcliff said. "I look at our region, and I believe it prepares you for the playoffs. Day in and day out, you have to play to come out with a victory."