Bob Jones bests rival James Clemens in Game 1 of weekend series

MADISON – There might be bigger matchups elsewhere, but no high school baseball games mean more around here like when James Clemens faces Bob Jones on the diamond.

There is some hate mixed with a dash of respect that creates can’t-miss games like what we got on Thursday at Bob Jones High School.

The number one team in the state, Bob Jones was able to fend off a resilient, ninth-ranked James Clemens club 6-4 in Game 1 of area action.

In front of way more fans than normal, the teams dished out another instant classic that left the Patriots feeling confident and the Jets with some rays of hope when the series resumes on Saturday at The Jets Plex.

Bob Jones was powered by the long ball as Jacob Pearl, Braden Booth and Vincent Howald all cracked dingers over the fence in this rivalry affair.

The biggest at-bat of the game came from the Patriot catcher Zach Johnson who drove in Gresham Baker for the go-ahead run with a clutch RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.

“Anytime you can get the first one; that is good because all you have to do now is get one of two on Saturday to be the champs,” Bob Jones head coach Jared Smith said.

On the mound for the Patriots, Braden Booth went the distance and got through some tough moments to hold off the Jets who played hard.

“Braden is a great arm,” James Clemens catcher JT Johnson said.

“I have a lot of respect for him and the work he puts in. Just being able to come out and score four means a lot to this team. I think it builds confidence in our lineup.”

The road Jets struck first in this game with a run in the top of the first inning to make it 1-0 when shortstop Francisco Ramirez drove in Carson Loosier with a 2-out RBI double.

That lead would not last long as Bob Jones second baseman Jacob Pearl stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the first and proceeded to crush the first ball he saw over the fence in center to tie the game at 1-1 in the blink of an eye.

“Start of the game, obviously I’m not trying to do too much, I’m trying to get on base,” Pearl said.

“I didn’t really think I was going to get a fastball right off the bat, but sure enough I did, and I took advantage of it.”

Pearl jumped all over the fastball from JC starting pitcher Matthew Drinkwater who was welcomed to the game rather rudely.

As the crowd went nuts and the truck horns in right field blared in celebration, Pearl was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.

Next up was the Patriot pitcher Booth who jacked a second ball out of the ballpark to give Bob Jones the 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning off of the sophomore Drinkwater.

“I was so proud of him because he could have folded after giving up those back-to-back home runs to start the game,” James Clemens head coach Johnny Johnson said.

“Man, he competed and threw up three zeros after that.”

After the up and down first inning that left them behind, James Clemens kept the pressure on Booth in the third inning with two more runs to retake the lead at 3-2.

Ramirez drove in Hayden Markfort with an RBI single, and Ramirez would come around to score when he was knocked in by Ben Graves who doubled with two out.

Both sides were playing strong defense, but one of the biggest fielding plays in this game came in the bottom of the third.

Booth was standing at second base with one out after smacking a double off of the fence in center.

There was a fly ball crushed high and deep by the Patriots third baseman Baker that took Markfort near the fence in right field to make the catch.

“You know what, I thought I’ve seen this on TV before, let’s just gun it back and let’s try to throw this arm off,” Markfort said.

“I threw it with everything I’ve got and luckily it was right on the money, and we got him out.”

Markfort’s strong throw ended the inning for James Clemens and neutralized the Bob Jones offensive threat in the bottom of the third.

The Jets were seemingly in control of the game until the Bob Jones designated hitter Howald clubbed another Patriot home run in the bottom of the fifth to tie it back up at 3-3.

Bob Jones went after JC relief pitcher Mason Busch in the bottom of the sixth inning with a single by Baker that was followed up with Zach Johnson’s single that handed the Patriots the narrow 4-3 edge.

“I was just sitting fastball trying to hammer something,” Zach Johnson said.

“I didn’t think I was going to get a fastball to be honest, but I just saw it up and put a barrel to it.”

The Patriots would hang two more runs on JC to lead 6-3 heading into the top of the seventh.

Booth was back on the mound in the seventh and the senior pitched into a bases-loaded jam with no-one out.

James Clemens had life when Loosier singled, Markfort coached a walk and Ty Marsh singled to load it up.

A sacrifice fly by Graves got Loosier home, but Booth was able to get JT Johnson to ground out for the final out of this tightly contested first installment of a beloved rivalry in Madison.

Each side had things to be proud of and things to clean up, but it goes down twice more on Saturday at James Clemens for games two and three starting at 1 p.m.

Also be sure to pick up a print copy of The Madison Record next Wednesday, April 24 for a story about Game 2 and Game 3 between Bob Jones and James Clemens for the area crown.

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