Although Paint Branch High did not win a state title this spring in baseball or softball, it had two of the leading hitters in Montgomery County.
Baseball player Vinny Jackson batted .648 and softball player Kelli Jones .482 in leading Paint Branch to a 16-2 record in baseball and a 10-6 mark in softball.
Jackson, a senior, has accepted a football scholarship to Boston University. For him, this baseball season was supposed to be fun, an extracurricular activity.
Nonetheless, he has league-leading statistics. He led the county in runs (27), batting (.648) and doubles (12) and tied for the lead in RBI (28). He was second in home runs with seven.
"I had a talk with Vinny at the start of the season," said Paint Branch Coach Paul Fahrner. "I told him he already had the football scholarship and that he should come out and have some fun playing baseball. I guess he did that."
"I didn't have the pressure this season because I had the scholarship," Jackson said. "I played American Legion baseball with Cissel Saxon for a couple of years and the pitching here in the Montgomery County high school league is not as fast as it is there. The pitchers just can't fool me as much because I know what to expect."
Jones, a sophomore, set out to prove herself this spring. Along with her .482 batting average, she was second in the county with runs batted in with 30.
"There was a little pressure on me this year," she said. "I had to prove that I had a little talent. It's not like they doubted me last year, but I felt that I had to prove that sophomores can do a lot, if they really try."
At Paint Branch, the names Jackson and Jones have become synonymous with winning. In 1982, Vernon Jackson, Vinny's brother, made the All-Met first team as a center fielder.
And Kelli's older sisters Sandy and Becky have starred in softball. Last year, Sandy, who has graduated, led the county in pitching and this season Becky stole more bases than anyone else in the league.
"I wanted Vinny to establish himself," said Fahrner. "I kept hearing in his first two seasons with the team that there's young Vernon and I knew that Vinny was a talented ball player himself. I wanted Vinny to make a mark for himself."
Jackson's "leadership help us tremendously," said Fahrner. "By leading off and with his speed, he got things started for us. You can't really put a value on it."
"It makes me feel really great that he has done so well," said Vernon Jackson Sr. "He has done as good or better than my other son did. He gives it his best, 100 percent, and it has paid off."
It was while playing under her father and mother at Calverton Recreational Center that Jones developed her softball skills. During those years, Calverton won three championships and was runner-up four times in a county recreational league.
"She is continuing the family tradition because she is taking after all of us," said sister Becky. "I think she will do really well again next year if she keeps coming along.
"When she started off this season, she went 13 for 15 in the first two games and that was amazing. I was impressed. I was jealous."