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Jets use strong pitching and patience at the plate to overpower Charles Henderson, 12-2

By Caleb Odom (caleb@themadisonrecord.com)

MADISON — The pressure of the moment was trying to crush James Clemens pitcher Hayden Markfort.

It was a Monday afternoon, and the Jets were tied 2-2 with Charles Henderson in the top of the fourth inning and the visiting Trojans had the bases loaded with a hunger for more runs.

Markfort was brought in to replace reliever Matthew Nitcavic who had allowed the two runs and pitched into a jam with two walks and a single that were still on the base pads.

The sun was beating down on the Jets pitcher as he tried to focus on getting the Charles Henderson first baseman Stewart out.

Markfort could not afford to walk Stewart and he was about to lose him if he could not get a ground ball.

The James Clemens pitcher stared in at his catcher JT Johnson for the sign as music from the softball field next door echoed dully in the distance.

“You have just got to throw strikes and try to get the infield to get you out of it,” Markfort said.

“I’m not a big strikeout guy, I’m a pitch to contact guy. So I was just trying to get some weak contact to the infielders.”

Markfort’s pitch found the bat of Stewart who sent a ground ball to second basemen Francisco Ramirez, who calmly flipped the ball to his double play partner, the shortstop Andrew Lawrence.

Lawrence gloved the ball and stepped on second base and uncorked a perfect throw to the first baseman Luke Davenport before the Trojan baserunner could reach first.

“That thing could have gone south right there,” James Clemens head coach Johnny Johnson said. “We put ourselves in a bad position there by not throwing strikes and for him to come in and pound the strike zone there and get that double-play ball is huge.”

This moment was something that might get lost in the barrage of runs that came for the Jets just a half-inning later, but it changed the game.

James Clemens defeated Charles Henderson 12-2 on March 27 in a game that was run-ruled after 5 innings.

The Jets used strong pitching and patience at bats to overpower the Trojans who struggled to throw strikes.

Designated hitter Colten Payton was locked in for James Clemens with his 3-hit day that included two RBIs and a first inning double.

“So, all I’ve been focused on this year is staying to right-center,” Payton said.

“Staying smooth, staying through it. And we saw on the velo that it was like super slow. All I thought about in the box was ‘hit it to right-center.’ Then I got pitches to hit that I could handle and I just punished them.”

On the mound, the Jets had three solid innings from Preston Chenoweth, who was making his first start.

“It was just another pitching day,” Chenoweth said.

“You get out there, you have got your innings. It’s still three up three down. You have still got to get three outs no matter when you come in.”

Chenoweth faced the minimum in three innings thanks to a great throw from centerfielder Aiden Cook who unloaded a rope that doubled up the Trojan baserunner between second and third base for a double play in the second inning.

The Jets pitcher ended up with two strikeouts and no walks in these three innings before being lifted for Nitcavic.

“He could have kept going,” Johnson said.

“He threw really well for the first three innings. The fact that he came in and pounded the strike zone and got outs. He earned that. He slowly got an outing here and an outing there and he wasn’t one of our main arms to start the year and came out of football late. He has really earned the chance to do that today by pitching well.”

James Clemens jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to Payton’s RBI double and an RBI single by Satchel Wheeler.

Charles Henderson climbed back into the game in the top of the fourth with a pair of RBI singles against Nitcavic.

After Markfort’s big double play to escape the inning with it still tied, it was the Jets turn to put something together offensively.

The bottom of the fourth was a wildfire of five walks, four singles, two hit batters and more importantly, nine James Clemens runs that flipped the game on its head for an 11-2 score.

It would take an RBI sacrifice fly by Grant Gage that scored Lawrence for one more run in the bottom of the fifth that run-ruled this game.

This victory for James Clemens was a milestone for its head coach Johnny Johnson who now has 100 wins in his five years with the program.

“It’s not really me, it’s what players I’ve got, assistant coaches and preparation,” Johnson said. “I’ll tell you we got to 100 a lot quicker here than we did when I took over at Fort Payne, but I inherited a program that was in a lot better situation.”

The Jets next play host to Enterprise on Tuesday, March 28 at 4 p.m.

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