Jaguars starting pitcher Hill Garbo got the win in Madison Central’s 10-0 win over Horn Lake in five innings.
Jaguars starting pitcher Hill Garbo got the win in Madison Central’s 10-0 win over Horn Lake in five innings.
MADISON - They'll be underdogs headed into today's MHSAA second-round playoff series with Tupelo (20-8), but that doesn't seem to bother the Madison Central baseball Jaguars.

After all, they were underdogs last week when they got off the mat, scored 21 runs in 13 innings and took two must-win games to get here.

"The bats just came on," said Justin Milam, the winner of Saturday's decisive third game. "That was the big difference for us. We had hit well, at times, this season, but we were really seeing the ball well and it all came together for us (against Horn Lake.)"

That much was obvious.

The Jags out-hit the Eagles 19 to 10 in the final two games, and played well enough defensively to back up Milam and game-two starter Hill Garbo, who both pitched deep into games they started. Milam scattered six hits over six innings, struck out four and walked one without giving up an earned run in Saturday's 11-4 win, and Garbo was even more stingy, giving up only two hits and no runs in Friday's 10-0 route.

While those two dominated, the Jags' bats came alive.

Blake Morten hit .500 in the series, going 5-for-10 at the plate with five RBIs. Jacob Wooten was an equally impressive 3-for-8 at the plate with four RBI's. Blake Paban went 2-for-7 and knocked in three runs, as well.

But it wasn't just those three big bats: Garbo, Milam, Matthew Mordecai, Baker Hill and Morgan Alexander also combined to go 10-for-31 (a .323 average) at the plate.

"It wasn't that we changed anything or told them to approach at-bats differently," Madison coach Chad Davis said. "They started to do some of the things we have taught them this season, and we were more patient at the plate and took advantage of mistakes by opposing pitchers."

They'll need to do more of that this weekend if they are to reach the third round of the playoffs and a potential matchup with Clinton or Columbus, and the proof, as with anything in baseball, is in the numbers: the Jags are 10-0 when receiving six or more runs of support. Problem is, that's less than half their games.

"We haven't been hitting the ball all year," Garbo said. "When we get the kind of run support we had (against Horn Lake), we play better on defense and our pitchers pitch better, because we have the confidence that you have when you have a lead like that. (This past weekend) we just hit a lot more line drives. I think whatever the problem has been, it's been mental."

The Golden Wave come in with a 20-8 record; they are 10-5 in their last 15 and 6-4 in their last 10.

The two teams have met twice this season, with Madison Central winning 6-4 on March 29 and 8-7 on April 18. But mention of those first two meetings was quickly brushed off Tuesday.

"We've played them twice and beat them twice," Garbo said. "We know they really want to beat us bad. If they had won those first two games, they'd probably be coming in thinking 'We got this.' We're not trying to think like that. We know those games don't matter now, and it's going to be a very tough series."

The Region 2 champion Golden Wave had a bye in the first round, and should be well-rested after a six-day layoff.

It's another hurdle for this scrappy Jaguar team, but it's one they are excited to take on.

"They're going to challenge us in ways that Horn Lake didn't," Davis said. "They are probably a little more of a complete club - more sound fundamentally. They aren't going to beat themselves. Where Horn Lake gave us some opportunities, we'll have to make something happen against Tupelo."