ALBANY - The 2018 season ended for the Jackson Ironmen Monday afternoon as they came up on the short end of an 11-6 score against the Alexander Spartans in a Division II sectional semifinal at Alexander High School.
The loss concludes a 7-12 season for the Ironmen, while Alexander advances to the sectional championship game to take on top-seeded Zane Trace on Thursday.
Jackson Head Coach Andy Graham noted the contest was an uphill battle as Alexander hit the ball hard, en route to the win.
Jackson starter Reece Graham took the loss, as he gave up four runs when he was lifted in the third inning. Isaac York was credited with the pitching win for Alexander.
"Our pitching was weak today and I think that was the main problem we had,' said Graham.
It was also the final game for Jackson seniors Josh Blackburn, J.T. Davis, Trevor Gerstenberger Caleb Haller, Brent Lewis, Trey Moore, and Kendall Neal.
Graham added he felt bad for Neal, who did not play, due to an injury he suffered at Wellston last week.
"Anytime you lose a senior captain, it is always tough," said Graham. "I wish all our seniors the best."
The Spartans began their offensive production in their first at-bat. Connor Kimbrough singled moved to second, third on wild throws, and scored on a run-producing single by Andy Merckle. Jacob Jordan drew a walk but Graham worked his way out of trouble to end the inning.
In the second inning, Jackson got a hit from Ty Ruckel but the Ironmen were unable to bring him around.
Jackson took their only lead in the top of the third inning with a 2-1 effort. Blackburn singled and advanced to second on a Brice Graham single. He moved to third on a throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Logan Massie. Graham gave Jackson the scoring advantage when he crossed the plate off an RBI single by Lewis.
The Jackson lead proved short-lived as Alexander pulled ahead in the home half of the third. Andy Merckle started the inning with a single and came around to score on a hard hit single down the right-field line by Cameron Bayha to tie the game. The Ironmen did make a defensive gem on the play, throwing out pinch-runner Isaiah Lyle at third. The tie was broken, however, when Austin McCain singled to right and scored Luke Chapman.
The Spartans scored another run via an error and scored their fifth and final run when Connor Kimbrough singled to center fielder and Austin, McClain scored.
Jackson added a run in the fourth when Ruckel reached on an infield single and scored on an RBI single by Reece Graham. Graham would later come around to score on a sacrifice fly by Davis. Alexander added another run in the fourth-inning with the hit being an RBI single off the bat of Connor Truax.
Jackson would garner their final burst of offensive production in the fifth inning with a three-run effort. The rally started when Lewis reached on an error, stole second and came around to score on a balk. The Ironmen scored two additional runs as the result of Alexander errors and trailed 7-6.
But the Spartans added five runs before Jackson rallied in the seventh. Lewis singled; Haller and Reece Graham drew walks to load the bases. The game ended when the Spartans turned a 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
Overall, Alexander outhit Jackson 13-8. Offensive leaders for Jackson were Lewis, who finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and Brice Graham with a 2-for-3 effort.