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By JOEL COLEMAN
Throughout his 11-year career in Major League Baseball and his time as a Mississippi State Bulldog, Jay Powell let his arm do the talking.
Though the art of pitching is what the current Jackson Academy head coach is best known for, that doesn't mean Powell won't take the offensive performance put forth by his team in an 18-9 win over Starkville Academy on Monday at Volunteer Field.
The Raiders hit five total home runs off of Vols pitching and tallied 13 total hits to upend SA.
"The ball was carrying," said Powell. "We were able to score a lot of runs and were able to win, but it wasn't pretty."
Jackson Academy starting pitcher Matt Denny paced the Raiders' offense, hitting two three-run homers and driving in seven total runs.
Despite Denny's offensive showing, he couldn't find the same success on the mound.
After back-to-back home runs from teammates Michael Martin and Keith Shumaker spotted Denny a 3-0 first inning lead, Starkville Academy responded with five runs in the home half of the frame to charge ahead.
"Denny, he's a very good pitcher, but we got to him early," said SA head coach Neal Henry. "We had a little scouting report on him and just focused on hitting the fastball. If you don't hit the fastball, you've got to hit his changeup and his curveball and you don't want to do that as good as he spots up everything."
The Vols (9-15, 5-11 in division play) maintained their two-run advantage all the way until the middle innings.
In the fourth, Jackson Academy (21-7, 14-2 in division play) reclaimed the lead with a three-spot, but SA quickly scored two of its own in the home half to go back up 7-6.
The Raiders tied the game at seven with a run in the fifth before busting things open in the sixth against Vols pitcher Ryan Mann, who was on in relief of starter Alex Holtcamp.
Jackson Academy started its rally as the first two batters of the inning reached courtesy of a walk and an error.
Those developments were immediately followed by an RBI single from Michael Mordecai and a two-run single from Drake Davis to put the Raiders up 10-7.
Michael Luley followed with a walk and after the Vols relieved Mann with Ian Tharp, Denny blasted his first three-run homer to push Jackson Academy's lead to 13-7.
Though Starkville Academy got one run back in the home half of the sixth, Denny again struck for the Raiders in the seventh with his second three-run shot to cap a five-run frame.
"Your hat just goes off to JA," said Henry. "There's a reason they've won 21 games now. The thing is, it's 7-7 going into the sixth inning. But we just left some balls up and if you leave balls up against a team that can swing the bats that good, they're going to make you pay for it."
The Vols scratched across the game's final run in the bottom of the seventh as Ryan McKell scored on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Henson.
Yet it was too little, too late for SA who couldn't match Jackson Academy's muscle.
"Pretty much, we've been a very good offensive team," said Powell. "But the times we play at our best is when we pitch and play defense. When we try to get in slugfests, that usually doesn't set up too well for us. But we'll take the win. Starkville Academy's got a good team, they swing the bats extremely well and we've got to turn around on short rest and play them again (today)."
Starkville Academy's two varsity games at Jackson Academy begin today at 4 p.m.
Henry hopes his club can continue hitting as well as they did Monday.
Henson, Hunter Bolin and Stephen Robertson all had three-hit performances in Monday's contest, but Henry knows it will take a complete effort from everyone to pull out victories on Jackson Academy's turf.
"We've got to pitch better," said Henry. "We've got to hit our spots. We've just got to keep on hitting, keep on pitching and keep on playing."