Friday, April 23, 2010

SPORTS >> Lady Devils young, but still contenders

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils are on track to grab the No. 6 seed out of the 6A-East Conference despite losses to Jonesboro last Friday and Searcy on Tuesday.

Jacksonville lost the first game of a doubleheader with Jonesboro 5-1 and dropped the nightcap 4-1. The Lady Red Devils played host to Searcy at Dupree Park on Tuesday and came up short 2-0, an improvement from the first meeting, when the Lady Lions took a run-ruled, 10-0 victory April 6.

A No. 6 seed would be the lowest ranking ever for the Lady Red Devils. Jacksonville (4-9 in the conference) qualified for the state tournament every year of slow-pitch from 1996-99, and has qualified for every fast-pitch state tournament except in 2003.

The Lady Devils’ five conference championships, six runner-up finishes and five trips to the state semifinals give them a solid tradition to uphold.

But with a young roster that includes one senior, three-year starting infielder Jennifer Bock, Jacksonville coach Tanya Ganey said it’s progress, not tradition, she is most concerned with this year.

“We’re riding on the cusp on being in that six hole,” Ganey said. “But the kids continue to improve every game. According to my assistants, they played well against Searcy.”

Ganey was ill and could not attend when the Lady Red Devils played the Lady Lions at Dupree Park on Tuesday.

Illness has been a theme recently for the Lady Devils. A stomach virus was Jacksonville’s worst enemy on a trip to Jonesboro last Friday for a 6A-East doubleheader.

The bug struck several players, including Bock, pitcher Alexis House and Chyna Davis. Bock and House were able to take the field while Davis was forced to sit out.

Outfielder Riley Zink scored Jacksonville’s only run in the first game at Jonesboro when she drew the first of three straight walks in the top of the seventh inning. After reaching third, Zink scored on a passed ball.

Alexis Oakley went 3 for 3 and accounted for all of Jacksonville’s hits.

Bock scored in the bottom of the first inning of Game 2 when she walked and came in on a passed ball. The Lady Red Devils also finished with three hits in that game, and had three hits against Searcy on Tuesday.

Jacksonville will wrap up 6A-East Conference play Monday with a home game against West Memphis.