Jeff Davis High’s baseball team’s sweep of The Lovett School to win the 2021 Class AA State Baseball Championship was the realization of a dream that, early in the season, was thought to be implausible.
Returning only one starter from the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Jackets struggled to find their way early in the year. While the pitching started out solidly, poor hitting and an error prone defense left the Jackets struggling to get to a winning record. It wasn’t until March 11, 10 games into the season, that the Jackets reached the .500 mark at 5-5.
But then they closed out the pre-region portion of the season with a 4-game win streak, out-scoring the opposition 30-2 with three shutouts. With each game, the Jackets showed improvement.
Opening Region 2-AA play, Jeff Davis suffered a setback, losing their initial 3-game series against Toombs County two games to one. After dropping the opener with Bacon County, JD won the final two games against the Raiders and then swept Swainsboro as their record improved to 15-8 — and 6-3 in the region.
But then another setback hit them as No. 1 ranked Vidalia swept their 3-game series with the Jackets.
Entering the final 3-game series with East Laurens, the Jackets were 6-6 in the region, behind Vidalia and Bacon County, and still faced the possibility that they wouldn’t make the playoffs at all. But during the last week of play, JD swept East Laurens and Vidalia won all three games against Bacon and, suddenly, Jeff Davis found itself as the No. 2 seed from the region in the playoffs.
Once in the playoffs, the Jackets began to jell. While they lost their 3-game playoff opener to Jasper County in Hazlehurst, they won the next two to advance to the second round. Expecting to travel to Jefferson County, a No. 1 seed, the Jackets got some help as Fitzgerald, a No. 4 seed, defeated Jefferson County giving the Jackets another home series.
JD won 2-of-3 against Fitzgerald, winning the third game in 10 innings on a walk-off Matt Glass single with No. 1 seed Thomasville looming in the third round. But Callaway knocked off Thomasville and the Jackets were at home again.
Against Callaway, JD took the third and deciding game with another final inning nail biter as Cade Walters’ grounder to short, with two outs, runners on second and third and the score deadlocked at 0-0, led to a throwing error as the winning run crossed the plate.
The sweep of the championship series against Lovett at Grayson Stadium in Savannah was almost anticlimactic. While Lovett led in the first game 2-1 through five innings, a 4-run sixth gave Jeff Davis a 5-2 win and the nightcap was a breeze for the Jackets as they gained the lead in the bottom of the first and a 6-run sixth gave them an 8-1 and they cruised to victory.
While the Jacket hitting was slow to come around early in the season, in the playoffs they out-hit five of the top teams in the state 90-69. And Jacket hurlers registered 113 strikeouts in 13 games while JD batters struck out less than half that amount, with 52 Ks.
Three series went to three games and each time the Jackets found a way to win, refusing to quit, coming from behind and continuing to fight until the final out. In nine of the 13 playoff games, Jeff Davis trailed at some point in the game but they came back to win six of those games.
The Jackets finished the season with a 28-14 record, the eighth straight season they’ve had 20 or more wins, giving them 14 20-plus wins per season over the last 17 years. The season was the 20th straight winning season for Paul Glass coached teams.