Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SPORTS>>Jacksonville girls fall from field

Leader sportswriter

Alexis House’s improved strength and confidence in the pitcher’s circle was not enough for the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils in the first round of the 6A state softball tournament.

Sheridan overcame sporadic early hitting to take a 6-0 victory and eliminated Jacksonville at Sherwood Parks on Friday.

Sheridan, the No. 3 seed from the 6A-South, got to the sophomore House with a four-run fifth that included a three-run home run by right fielder Carly Greek.

“I thought for three or four innings, we played an awesome game,” Lady Red Devils coach TanyaGaney said. “Then the fifth inning was probably our letdown. We’re a pretty young team, and I’m proud of these young ladies’ accomplishments. They never give up.”

Jacksonville committed three errors and House, who developed steadily this season, gave up her only walk in the fifth. Hannah Hicks reached on an error to start the inning and later scored on an error that put two on for Greek, who smashed House’s 0-2 pitch over the left-field wall.

The Lady Devils (8-10) saw their best chance at scoring get away in the first when Jennifer Bock was tagged out at the plate after an infield grounder by junior catcher Alexis Oakley.

Bock, Jacksonville’s only senior, led off with a single to left field on the first pitch from Lady Yellowjackets pitcher Kaitlyn Jones and stole second and reached third on Candice Howard’s groundout.

Oakley failed on two bunt attempts before grounding to second and Bock, who delayed her move home, was thrown out to complete the double play.

Sheridan took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Mycah Love singled to center and Kaitlyn Jones drove her in with a double.

Catcher Jordan Jones singled to advance Kaitlyn Jones, who overran third and was thrown out from shortstop by Bock.

Lady ’Jackets left fielder Sarah Weatherford drove the ball into the left-field corner in the fourth and circled the bases for an inside the park home run that made it 2-0.

House and the Jacksonville defense were strong early. She induced a pop-up and struck out two in the first, and the Lady Devils got out of a jam in the second when House induced another popup and got her third strikeout as Sheridan stranded three.

House doubled to center in the fifth and the long drive came so close to leaving the park center fielder Amy Strange knocked down a section of temporary plastic fencing as she tried to make the catch.

But Tyler Pickett grounded out and Coyja Hood struck out to leave House on. Howard singled to right in the top of the sixth, but was stranded when Oakley and sophomore third baseman Haley Hickingbotham grounded out.

With Bock as the only senior, the Lady Red Devils overcame inexperience along with injuries and numerous position and lineup changes throughout the season. Ganey said she was happy with the way her team responded to the year’s various challenges.

“They carried on the tradition,” Ganey said of the run to the tournament.

“It wasn’t like they were just thrown into the state tournament, they actually won games to get there.

“So they earned the right to get there. And that, I’m very proud of.”