Over the course of his entire career, Drew Jackson has proven his worth as one of the best singles tennis players in the entire state, regardless of class.
And on Saturday afternoon in Athens, Jackson did exactly that once again.
For the second consecutive year, the junior qualified for the Division II OHSAA Singles Tennis Tournament. However, in this particular scenario, Wheelersburg’s top high school tennis hand did so in grand fashion by winning the entire East/Southeast District Tournament due to his outstanding play on Saturday afternoon at Ohio University in Athens.
Jackson, who won his third consecutive SOC Player of the Year Award by winning the SOC Singles Championship earlier in the month and obtained a first-round bye due to his play in the Division II Southeast Sectional Tournament, defeated Steubenville Catholic Central’s Mike Irvin, 6-2, 6-3 and Claymont’s Pau Caudet, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 en route to obtaining a berth in the Division II East/Southeast District Tournament Championship match. Jackson then recorded a victory over Waverly’s Brandon Nibert by default in said title match after Nibert withdrew from the match due to injury.
Minford’s Caden Wilcox, Clay’s Gage Keller, and Portsmouth’s Logan Carter also competed in the district meeting at the singles level, with Wilcox winning the second set of a three-set match over Irvin before falling by a 2-6, 6-3, 1-6 tally. Keller (4-6, 0-6 loss to Logan Elm’s Colton Mace) and Carter (1-6, 0-6 loss to Cambridge’s Joe Goggin) rounded out their outstanding seasons in singles play.
In doubles play, the doubles unit of Nate Crabtree and Brandon Phillips won a set in first round action by a 6-4, 7-5 tally to continue an excellent weekend for the Valley Local School system before falling by a 6-1, 6-2 tally in the second round. Minford’s Josh Wiehle and Zac Hammond, along with Portsmouth’s Allison Douthat and Luke Rodbell, rounded out equally strong doubles campaigns by participating in two tough first round doubles matches before falling by 6-4, 7-6 and 7-6, 6-1 margins.
‘Burg softball wins Division III District Championship, 10-4, over Coal Grove
Behind a three-hit outing from Wheelersburg’s Christen Risner and a resilient performance from Sydney Spence in the circle, the Pirates’ softball program was able to claim its fifth consecutive district championship with a 10-4 victory over the Coal Grove Hornets’ softball program on Sunday afternoon in Chillicothe in a contest that took 28 hours to finish due to inclement weather.
After a two-run homer from Kasey Murphy that gave Coal Grove a 2-0 lead on Saturday, Wheelersburg wasted no time answering in the bottom half of the first frame as a double by Christen Risner and a single by Taylor Fannin allowed the Lady Pirates to strike with the game’s first run when the speedy Risner stole home.
Even though Fannin was nabbed trying to steal second base, a Boo Sturgill walk ultimately allowed Wheelersburg to also post a two-run first inning as Addi Collins’ single scored Sturgill and tied the score at two apiece at the end of the inning. Laney Eller’s double then allowed Mia Darnell to manufacture a run with her RBI groundout to shortstop in the bottom of the second inning allowed Wheelersburg to obtain a 3-2 advantage after two innings of play.
In the fifth inning, Wheelersburg broke the contest open as Eller got the ball rolling with a double once again, and an error allowed Risner to follow with a second double, which scored both Eller and Darnell. A second error on a sacrifice bunt allowed Risner to move to third and Fannin to reach first base, and a third error allowed Risner to score and Fannin to move into scoring position. RBI singles by Sarah Claxon and Bella Williams then rounded out the inning as Wheelersburg took an 8-2 inning after five innings of action.
After a weather delay in the top half of the sixth frame, play was resumed on Saturday, and two Wheelersburg errors, along with a two-run double by Coal Grove, followed. Then, after the madness, a final downpour officially put an end to Saturday’s action.
When play resumed on Sunday, Spence was as strong as could be on the circle. The sophomore actually obtained five of her 11 strikeouts during the contest en route to finishing with a complete game seven-hitter as the Lady Pirates played in a more crisp manner en route to the victory. A double by Darnell and a single by Risner allowed Fannin to drive in Darnell on a groundout and Sturgill to score Risner on a flyout for the game’s final runs.
For the contest, Risner led the way from her leadoff position by going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two stolen bases, two RBI, and three runs scored en route to a fantastic performance, while Claxon (2-for-3, RBI, run scored) and Eller (2-for-3, two doubles, two runs scored) also contributed heavily to the offensive attack.
Darnell (1-for-3, double, RBI, two runs scored), Fannin (1-for-3, sacrifice, RBI, run scored), Sturgill (1-for-3, walk, RBI, run scored), Williams (1-for-3, RBI), and Mallory Bergan (1-for-3, double) also were strong as the Lady Pirates again got excellent production up and down the lineup.
With the victory, Wheelersburg (24-0) will play Lore City Buckeye Trail in a Division III, Region 11 Semifinal contest on Wednesday, May 23 in Lancaster at 6 p.m.
A further recap of the Wheelersburg softball program’s victory will come in the Tuesday, May 22 edition of the Daily Times. A feature story on Drew Jackson will be coming later on in the week.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT