By Derik Vanderford firstname.lastname@example.org
April 30, 2014
UNION COUNTY — The Union County Yellow Jackets are the AAA Region III Champions, and they are looking forward to their first playoff game at home this Friday.
Coach Kirk Rebuck said he knew coming into the season that his team would have depth in pitching and good defense.
“The question was the offensive,” Rebuck said. “We struggled early in the year, but we have a good coaching staff and good players, and now we’re hitting much better than we were.”
Rebuck said the team began focusing on hitting, and the players listened to the coaches and worked hard on improving.
“Offense is not a strength yet, but it’s not a weakness like it was,” Rebuck said.
Rebuck said the real crossroads in the season was when the team was 0-2 in region play and defeated Broome.
“Winning that game was big,” he said.
From there, the team won eight straight games.
“Then, defeating Chester was big because that put us up over 500 in region with three games to play,” Rebuck said. “If you win out, no one can catch you. As long as we kept winning, no one could catch us. And they did that.”
To win the region, the team defeated Clinton on Saturday.
“They played well Saturday,” Rebuck said. “It started off dicey, but we put runs on the board and (pitcher) Jimmy Johnson had a good game.”
Rebuck said Johnson is good on the mound, as his record is 5-1 in region play.
Rebuck also praised pitcher Michael Todd Harris, calling him the team’s MVP for the year.
“He led in pitching and hitting,” Rebuck said about Harris, who also had five region wins. “He does a good job at the plate and on the mound.”
Other players Rebuck praised included Quay Cooper — who he said is good in the outfield and as a closer when starting pitchers get tired — and catcher Charles Johnson, who Rebuck called a team leader who is solid and tough.
“Charles knows how to control pitchers and the game pretty well,” Rebuck said.
Rebuck said from here on out, the Yellow Jackets will play quality teams, and he intends to take advantage of those teams’ mistakes.
“When you get into scoring situations with good teams, you’ve gotta make them pay,” he said. “That’s what we’re aiming to do — capitalize on their mistakes.”
Union County is the No. 1 seed in the district, which means they will host River Bluff this Friday at Timken Sports Complex.
“I’m excited; the coaching staff is excited; the kids are excited,” Rebuck said. “Making the playoffs showed we played well enough to get there. Being the No. 1 seed shows we won our region.”