Jackson-Milton having post-prom prosperity
There’s no need to jump to conclusions, but the the Jackson-Milton softball team may have been a little preoccupied prior to May 4.
It was prom season and 11 Blue Jay upperclassmen had to prepare for the big dance. Between the dress shopping, hair appointments and limo booking, the girls suffered seven softball losses.
After the first Saturday of the month, and the activities of the day after, Jackson-Milton rattled off 10-straight wins.
“It’s been a tale of two seasons,” Blue Jays coach Kelly Snowden said. “They really must’ve had a good time at prom and regrouped and refocused.”
Jackson-Milton (22-8), entering its second-straight regional appearance, has been one of the hottest hitting teams in the area this month. Tallying 15 hits in their district championship win over Mineral Ridge, the Blue Jays surpassed a season high in runs with 17.
“Our offense is just firing on all cylinders,” Snowden said. “It’s not just the top of our lineup, either. We’re getting great contributions from our 7-8-9 hitters and throughout the lineup.
“Run production is at an amazing high and we’re peaking at the right time.”
As a tuneup for Thursday’s matchup with Colonel Crawford in Kent, JM played Austintown Fitch on Tuesday. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Paije Kiraly belted a three-run home run, her third of the season, to down the Falcons.
But to get to Kiraly, Fitch walked Caitlin Carney.
The team’s top hitter has 10 home runs, 46 hits and 42 RBIs.
“Other teams can see that Paije and Caitlin are a fearsome 1-2 punch,” Snowden said. “They’re powerful in the heart of our lineup.”
Zaina Sahli hits the ball to all fields and collected a pair of doubles against the Falcons. Maddie Tomaino is the Blue Jays’ “resident bunter,” as Snowden puts it. Though the coach in her 12th year at Jackson-Milton doesn’t publicly display statistics to her girls, the team still has goals.
“They know what needs to get done and they work hard for it,” Snowden said. “Especially right now, they have a laser focus.”
The Blue Jays earned wins over Champion, Kent Roosevelt, Tallmadge, Ursuline and Western Reserve, which was ranked No. 2 in the state. They also hung tight with Canfield.
Snowden said its her best team since 1998 and 1999 when they earned back-to-back regional berths, too, and went 42-2 in the process.
Former JM pitcher Lindsay Knipp, a 2009 graduate and current player at Columbia College in South Carolina, threw batting practice to the team this week. Kiraly’s older sister, Krista, was a four-year starter who graduated in 2006.
“Paije takes after her sister a lot,” Snowden said. “It’s been fun watching her develop. She’s been an integral part of our success over the last four years. She’s a calm player who doesn’t get too rattled.”
Last year, the Blue Jays fell to Mathews, 5-3, in the regional semifinals. A rematch is on their minds, but the Eagles come first.
“We scouted Colonel Crawford on Saturday and are comfortable with what it brings,” Snowden said. “We’re proned to make errors early. My hope for us is that we get off like we can, error-free and give us some more comfort.
“But we know Mathews looms, if we get that opportunity. Either way, we have to get through them and they have to get through us to make states.”