By Zack Huffman
The boys from Jonesboro arrived at Mt. Zion Friday night with the funk of last week's 8-6 loss still fresh in their mouths.
Much like any other good rivalry, the game started with a Wild West-style shootout with the Cardinals outlasting the Bulldogs for a 21-9 win in six innings.
"It's always good to the beat the school about five miles down from you," said Jonesboro coach Raju Patel. "Mt. Zion-Jonesboro is a pretty big rivalry in every sport. It felt good to beat these guys and get the taste out of our mouths after they came over and beat us."
According to coach Art Wilkerson, Mt. Zion (9-11, 4-8 in Region 4-AAAA) was able to take an early lead thanks to the intensity of the rivalry shared between the two schools.
"If I could schedule Jonesboro a few more times a year, maybe we could jump out earlier in the season," he said.
Mt. Zion and Jonesboro (6-11, 4-8) went toe-to-toe trading leads until the fourth inning when Jonesboro walked into the inning on the losing end of a 9-7 score and walked out with a 15-9 lead. The Cardinals then proceeded to shut down Mt. Zion's offense for the remainder of the game.
"I keep telling them we've got to out-hit them and that's what we did," said Patel.
"I'm definitely not dissapointed in the way they played. I'm very proud of them," said Wilkerson. "We've played a lot of baseball recently and I think they ran out of gas."
Both teams were battling fatigue with Friday's game being the third in as many days for the Cardinals and Bulldogs.
"We're both coming off playing two region games back-to-back," said Patel. "Our pitching was dry and there's was about the same."
The game was big for both teams as the two schools share a significant rivalry. With the win, Jonesboro snapped a four game skid, while Mt. Zion extended its streak to three losses.
Jonesboro opened the game, with a single run from lead-off batter Antonio Allen. Mt. Zion answered with a run from Brandon Mapp followed by Myles Clark's homerun, which sent Marc Threet and Joel Williams home.
The Cardinals retook the lead, 7-4, in the second with runs from Allen, Perry Woods, Bradon Bial, Jonathan Smith, Mario Cummings and Demetrius Regis.
Although Mt. Zion picked up two runs from Mapp and Reggie Mitchell, the Bulldogs still trailed 7-6 headed into the third inning.
After seven and ten-batter innings, Mt. Zion shut down the Cardinals in the top of the third with a quick trio of outs. The Bulldogs followed up with three runs in the bottom of the inning to reclaim the game, 9-7.
Once again, Mapp scored a run, along with Kelvin Almond and Rummel Victor.
Jonesboro unleashed an offensive onslaught in the fourth inning, with Cummings, Regis and Cameron Jones scoring runs, followed by a homerun from Woods. Before the end of the inning, Cummings returned to bat, smashing a triple to send Bial, Smith and Allen home to push Jonesboro's lead to 15-9.
At this point, Mt. Zion's offensive drive began to sputter with the Bulldogs failing to score any more runs in the game.
The Cardinals drove the final nails into the game during the sixth inning with six more runs from Bial, Smith, Allen, Cummings, Regis and Jones.
Mt. Zion was unable to bring their deficit back down to single digits and the game was ended with a mercy ruling.
"I'm very proud of them," said Wilkerson. "It was like they weren't trying. They played until the very end."