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Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Alexander senior first baseman Jacob Early has battled from an early-seaosn slump to hit .206 with three home runs to help the Cougars challenge for one of the region's top spots.

As one of the returning offensive leaders from last season’s playoff team, senior Jacob Early was being counted on to help lead Alexander this season.

The first baseman was all prepared to do his part in helping the Cougars challenge for the Region 5-AAAAA title.

Early showed he was ready in the Cougars scrimmage win over McEachern. But then the real games begun and he started off in a slight slump at the plate.

The big lefty attributed his early-season .172 batting average to being over anxious to pick up where he left off last season.

“I put way too much pressure on myself,” Early said. “I just wanted to do good.”

Early said he wanted to help his team while in the process of showing that he was worthy of his commitment to play at West Georgia Tech next season.

Early and Alexander coach Chris Brown met and agreed the left-handed first baseman would sit a couple games and then move down in the line-up.

“To be honest, I really didn’t agree with it, but I knew coach was looking out for my best interest,” Early said. “It has seemed to work out for me and the team.”

Heading into Monday’s game at South Paulding, Early has picked his average up to .206 and has hit three home runs with eight RBI while scoring six runs.

He has played in 13 games and has 38 at-bats for the Cougars as they remain in the region race for one of the top playoff spots.

“Every kid wants to be in that four hole,” Brown said. “I get that. We felt by moving Jacob down he would get to see some better pitches and a chance to boost his average. He is one of our main offensive guys and we knew we would need him.”

As the Cougars reached the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs a No. 3 seed, Earler was named to the second team Region 5-AAAAA team after hitting .325 with 18 RBI last season.

So his bat was going to be important in the Cougars’ lineup.

Since settling down, Early has been one of the key reasons the Cougars are on a seven-game winning streak heading into Monday’s game against South Paulding.

Alexander is fighting for one of the top playoff spots in the region.

Because of his success in the lower half of the lineup and others have stepped up, Brown said that might be Early’s spot for rest of season.

“I like him down in the lineup,” Brown said. “he is one of the guys that we are relying on so I knew he was going to start hitting the ball better. I just knew it was a matter of time.”

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