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Wilson pitches Jackets past swainsboro
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    BROOKLET — Joe Wilson gave up only two runs in his 62⁄3 innings of work, and he made up for it by driving in two Southeast Bulloch runners in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Yellow Jackets (8-8, 4-4 Region 3-AA) knocked off visiting Swainsboro (10-6, 6-3) 4-2 Friday in a big region matchup.
    Clinging to a 1-0 lead, Wilson came up to the plate with runners on second and third and one out in the fifth. He slapped a 2-2 pitch into left field.
    “It was huge,” said SEB coach Stephen Hoyle. “(Wilson) had two strikes on him (and) the infield came in, so he shortened up his stance, put the ball in play and hit it hard. It scored two runs. It was huge and it helped boost us right there for a little rally.”
    Dustin Stall led off the inning with a walk on four-straight pitches, and David McCarthy lined a base hit to center. Cory Nesmith moved the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and that set up Wilson.
    What was going through the pitcher’s head when he stepped up to the plate?
    “Coach Hoyle’s gonna kill me if I don’t get a hit,” Wilson said.
    The Yellow Jackets also put runs on the board in the third and sixth innings.
    In the third — with runners on the corners — Cory Nesmith crossed the plate from third on a first-base pickoff attempt that ended up in right field, and Matt Conner scored on a passed ball in the sixth to give Wilson a 4-0 lead.
    “I felt great today,” said Wilson. “The defense did a great job, we didn’t make any mistakes, and we hit the ball.”
    The Tigers made a comeback attempt in the final inning, putting runners on second and third with nobody out on a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch. A Justin Hodges’ sacrifice fly scored Austin Peebles, then Wilson forced Nick Dunn to pop out to deep center. A strong throw from Conner prevented another run.
    After another walk put runners on the corners, Wilson was replaced by McCarthy, and Swainsboro pitcher Javec King drove in designated hitter Justin Newsome with an infield single.
    McCarthy forced a groundout to third to finish out the Tigers and pick up the save.
    King went the distance for the Tigers, allowing two earned runs, striking out two and giving up five hits.
    Wilson finished the day with six strikeouts and allowed just two Swainsboro hits. He shut down the SHS in order twice.
    “He’s had two very good outings his last two times on the hill,” Hoyle said. “He’s really stepped it up a notch. We’ve been waiting for Joe to step it up and he’s answered the call. He looks very comfortable out there throwing strikes.”
    The win was a big one for SEB. Swainsboro held second place in the region before Friday’s contest.
     “They were second place,” said the SEB coach. “The only team that (had) beaten them (was) Westside. Now (today’s game) helped put them down in the middle of the pack with the rest of us.”
    Southeast Bulloch has an opportunity to gain more ground in region play next Friday against Screven County, who moved into second place behind Westside (Augusta) with the Swainsboro loss.
    The home game looks to give SEB an edge against the Gamecocks, who beat the Jackets 5-4 a week ago in Sylvania.
    “Our biggest motivational tool is that we have not lost a region game at home yet this year,” said Hoyle. “That’s defiantly something we kind of pride ourselves on and work hard at doing.”
    Before returning to region play, the Jackets head to Claxton (Region 3-A’s No. 1 team) Wednesday for a 5 p.m. first pitch.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.