Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SPORTS>>Bad luck leaves Gwatney AAA feeling ‘Blue’

Leader sportswriter

Gwatney Chevrolet needed more than the one inning of good fortune they received at Gary Hogan Field on Monday night, as Little Rock Blue took a 7-2 win over the Chevy boys in a game that saw nine Jacksonville base runners left on base throughout the contest.

Gwatney played a much closer game than the score might indicate, trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning after a somewhat questionable call that ended their turn in the top of the sixth.

Seth Tomboli was in scoring position at third base with two outs when Jason Regnas was struck out by Little Rock pitcher Brandon Welch. The ball got away from the Blue catcher, and Regnas scrambled to first. The throw to the bag hit Regnas in the back, and the officials called him out for interference, negating the Tomboli run that would have pulled Gwatney to within a single score.

The letdown showed in the bottom of the sixth, as Little Rock racked up four straight base hits to score three runs to start out the frame. Blue sent the Chevy Boys packing in the top of the seventh after three batters to end the contest.

Jacksonville’s bad luck would be evident from the opening moments of the game. Leadoff batter Blake Mattison reached on a walk, only to be out moments later when Regnas hit a line drive straight to first base. The catch was made, leaving Mattison with no time to get back to the bag. Blue pitcher Taylor Brown then struck out Cameron Hood to retire the side after only three batters.

Brian Thurman started off at the mound for Jacksonville, and got in trouble early when he walked Blue leadoff batter Welch. Welch advanced on a single by Cody Hill, and scored when Taylor Brown singled to left field. All was not lost on the play, however, as Tomboli tagged Hill at third to prevent a second run, and Brown was tagged trying to steal second moments later by Adam Ussery.
Jacksonville put two runners in scoring position in the top of the second with a walk for Zach Thomas and a single for Thurman. Terrell Brown advanced the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and a walk for Tomboli moments later would load the bases with two outs. That left Chevy batter Ussery in need of a big hit, but Brown struck him out to leave all three runners stranded.

Thurman retired Blue with two pop ups and a groundout in the bottom of the second, Jacksonville would put two runners on once again in the third. Little Rock’s defense seemed to tighten up when it mattered the most, retiring Thomas and Thurman to leave Mattison and Hood stranded on base. Mattison started off the frame with a single to center, and stole to second before Hood was walked.

A grounder into left center by Taylor Brown scored Cody Hill and Jeff Shaw to increase Blue’s lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the third. Gwatney was not able to generate much offense in the fourth, with a walk for Clayton Fenton as the only runner to reach for Jacksonville.

Tomboli took over for Thurman at the mound for the bottom of the fourth. He gave up a single to start off, but Gwatney recovered for its most impressive defensive play of the game on a 6-4-3 double play to retire Little Rock.

Regnas walked in the top of the fifth, and was on his way home when Thomas popped up into shallow right field. The Blue first baseman slipped just as the ball got to him, but what would have been an E3 error was called foul, and Thomas popped up to center moments later for the third out.

Blue added one more run in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI for Hill to make the score 4-0. Gwatney’s atrocious fortune would subside slightly in the top of the sixth inning, just long enough to score two runs to avoid a shutout.

Thurman led off with a single for Jacksonville, and cashed in on an error at second base to reach. Brown then walked, and Fenton would load the bases when a Welch pitch hit the brim of his batting helmet.

A walk for Tomboli gave Thurman a free ride to the plate for the first run on a forced-run, and Ussery got the other Jacksonville RBI moments later with a sacrifice bunt that scored Brown. Fenton and Tomboli were left stranded on when the umpire made his bizarre foul call on Regnas, leaving the tying run in the dust.