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Story by Robert Wilson
Photos by Robert Smith

MADISON – Jackson Academy senior right fielder Dakota Jordan – one of the hottest hitters in the country – continued his torrid home run pace with two more bombs Friday, and his eighth and ninth in last seven games, against Madison-Ridgeland Academy, the No. 1 ranked team in Mississippi by MaxPreps.

But this ending was different for the Raiders. Instead of another great performance by Jordan and a close conference loss, JA defeated MRA 10-5 in a MAIS Class 6A conference game here at MRA.

JA got a solid pitching performance from an unlikely source – junior right-hander Cade Breland who had thrown only two innings all season. Breland silenced the dangerous MRA hitters and allowed only three hits, no runs and didn’t allow a runner to get to third base in five innings.

JA improved to 18-10 overall and 5-7 in conference play. The Raiders rebounded from close losses to MRA earlier in the week, losing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning in the first game Tuesday at MRA and despite scoring 11 runs in the second inning, lost a 19-15 decision in the second game Thursday at JA.

MRA dropped to 30-4 overall and 9-3 in league play and broke a 10-game winning streak. The Patriots hadn’t lost since a 5-4 decision April 1 to four-time defending MAIS state champion Jackson Prep. Friday was MRA’s worst loss this season. The Patriots have lost by two and one runs to Prep and by two runs to undefeated MHSAA Class 4A Sumrall.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Jordan – a Mississippi State football and baseball signee and Canton Academy transfer – once again put on a show. He hit an 0-1 pitch over the building over the left field fence, at least 400 feet, for a three-run home to key a five-run, fourth inning for a 7-0 JA lead and his 12th home run of the season, tying Matt Denny’s school record set in 2011. Then, he went opposite field with a towering shot over the right field fence, another at least 400 feet, with two out in the fifth, breaking Denny’s school record for his 13th home run of the season. Jordan now ranks tied for second in the nation in home runs, according to MaxPreps. Only Judd Utermark of Charlotte, N.C., Christian has more, with 14, in the country. The MAIS record for most home runs in a season is Copiah Academy’s Hunter Renfroe – now with the Milwaukee Brewers – who hit 20 in 2010.

Jordan improved his batting average to .547 (47 of 86) and has 12 doubles, 3 triples and 13 homers. He scored three runs Friday to give him 42 runs and had five runs batted in to give him 47 RBIs for the season. Jordan could break school records for hits, runs and RBIs. He is on pace to break school records for on-base percentage (improved to .645 after Friday’s game) and slugging percentage (improved to 1.209 after Friday’s game).

Jordan is hitting .681 with a slugging percentage of 1.955 with 15 runs scored and 25 RBIs in his last seven games. He went 6 for 11 (.545) with three homers, seven runs scored and 12 RBIs in this week’s three-game series against MRA.

Athlon Sports listed Jordan as the No. 30 best high school prospect in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft in a story this week. The 30th high school player was chosen as the 100th overall pick near the end of the third round in last year’s MLB Draft and his signing bonus was over $1 million. 

JA coach Parker Harris was more thrilled with the way his team rebounded after those two defeats to MRA earlier in the week.

Adversity hit prior to the game for JA. The scheduled starter, senior left-hander Will Rose, was scratched when Harris got a call at 1:30 p.m. that Rose had pink eye and wasn’t going to be able to play. So Harris and his staff decided on Breland.

“Cade came out here tonight and showed a lot of guts and showed what kind of competitor he is,” Harris said. “He was really good tonight. All we asked him to do was compete in the strike zone.

“The first two games could have gone either way and we were on the short end of the stick, but proud of the way we came back today and competed. It would have been easy after a long night (Thursday’s game lasted about four hours and ended around 10 p.m.) and two heart-breaking losses to kind of lay down today. But our guys came out and compete and did it. They showed a little dog. Everyone played a part in this win today. My scoreboard looks like a kid was writing on it. I guarantee you we played almost 20 kids tonight.” 

“Coach Harris called me over and told me I was in trouble, then he told me I was starting,” Breland said. “Our game plan was to just let MRA hit and let the infielders and outfielders work and do their jobs. I was trying to go about three innings. We weren’t going to roll over and give up. We had some guys step up tonight.”

“The first two losses (to MRA) hurt me and my teammates pretty hard,” Jordan said. “We came out hot and ready today and got the win. I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten everyone’s attention because our bats have been pretty hot. I was super proud of Cade for stepping up in a big game tonight and going out there and competing against one of the best teams in the state. I love this team and can’t wait to see where God takes us down the road. We’re not done yet.”

MRA bounced back with five runs in the sixth inning – senior left fielder and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee Peyton Martin and junior first baseman and Ole Miss commitment Jackson Evers each hit home runs – to close the gap to 10-5. JA senior right-handed reliever Cade Gadman allowed two hits in the seventh but got out of the inning without any runs to close out the victory.

Jordan, senior center fielder and leadoff hitter Trey Adams, senior left fielder and Mississippi Gulf Coast CC signee Joseph Ciaccio and junior catcher Chandler Anderson had two hits each for JA. Senior designated hitter JT Thigpen hit his seventh homer of the season.

JA scored 25 runs and had 25 hits over the past two games.

“We haven’t gotten good pitching out of our starters for the past two nights,” MRA coach Allen Pavette said. “Some of it should be contributed to JA. I felt their hitters did a great job of battling and extending at bats and we didn’t do a good job of location pitches. We didn’t make plays we were supposed to do tonight and everything JA did kind of went their way. They had big two hits and their pitcher (Breland) pitched well. When they took him out, he had only thrown 65 pitches and we had thrown 120. Their pitching was more effective than we were. I was impressed with JA’s pitchers and their hitters.”

MRA is now in second place in the conference and is three games ahead of Hartfield (6-6 in league play). MRA needs to win one game next week in three-game series against Hartfield to clinch second place and receive a first-round bye in the playoffs. Prep is in first place at 10-2.