BROOKLET — On a day when Southeast Bulloch hoped to advance to the Region 1-AAA finals, Pierce County’s Jennifer Jernigan stole the show.
Jernigan was nearly perfect on Wednesday, tossing a complete game, striking out six, and allowing just three hits in the Bears’ series-clinching 4-1 victory over the Lady Yellow Jackets.
“This was definitely a tough loss for us,” said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. “We knew coming in that there were two good teams in this series. Unfortunately, Pierce County made a few more big plays and we made a few more mistakes.”
Down to their final three outs, the Jackets attempted to rally. Effie Manahan led off with a single and moved to second when Abbie Cuneo dropped a relay toss on a Sierra Peebles grounder.
Lindsey Crosby single to right, scoring Manahan and advancing Bre Gates – running for Peebles – to third.
But Jernigan slammed the door. Dallas McClellan was caught looking on a 3-2 fastball that clipped the inside corner and Jernigan coaxed a pop up from Jordan Hutchinson to end the game and sent the Bears to the region championship game.
“We were doing everything we could to get something going,” said Civalier. “We wanted to take some pitches, but (Jernigan) started pouring in strikes. Maybe things could have been different if our offense would have gotten started sooner.”
Sierra Peebles (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 K) matched Jernigan most of the way, but one costly inning sealed her fate.
Erin Rozier led off the top of the fourth with a walk before stealing second. Ashley Hunt then dug out a low fastball, lining it off the fence in left for an RBI double to open the scoring.
With runners on second and third later in the inning, Casey Johnson blooped a pop up that dropped just behind Peebles. The throw home prevented Hunt from scoring, but a subsequent throw down to second to try and pick off Jessie Thrift allowed Hunt to come home.
Pierce added one more run on a sacrifice fly from Cuneo that brought home Thrift.
That was more than enough for the Bears’ ace. In between Manahan hits in the first and seventh innings, Jernigan sat down 16 of 17 batters.
“She really did a good job of keeping us off balance,” said Civalier. “We did her a couple of fevers in chasing some pitches, but she was tough once she got into her groove.”
The Region 1-AAA title is now out of reach, but SEB still has one more game to play before heading to the state playoffs. The Jackets will travel to Tattnall County on Saturday to take on Brantley County in a single game for the No. 3 seed in the state tournament.
Pierce will play Tattnall County for the region title and the No. 1 state seed.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.