Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SPORTS>>Gwatney second in tourney

Leader sports editor

Gwatney Chevrolet coach Bob Hicking-botham figured he had about 2 ½ pitchers left for his team’s last game.

But Hickingbotham only needed two, or one, actually, as Gwatney beat the North Little Rock Optimist Colts 7-2 in the second-place game of the Gwatney Chevrolet Junior Legion Invitational at Dupree Park.

Noah Sanders started for Gwatney and gave up both North Little Rock runs in 1/3 of an inning before Hickingbotham replaced him with Xavier Brown, who silenced the Colts the rest of the way and picked up the victory.

“That’s the second time he’s been on the mound,” Hickingbotham said of Brown. “And he threw strikes and did real well. Kept the ball down and they didn’t really get a lot of shots at him. He did a good job. I was proud of him.”

Brown, who started the game at third base, went 4 2/3 innings and worked around four walks while giving up two hits and striking out two. He helped himself with a pair of RBI singles and drove in Gwatney’s first run in the second.

Brown’s effort was especially nice to seebecause most of the pitching staff was worn out from tournament play and a couple pitchers were unavailable for use, even, as position players.

“It’s fatigue, it’s arm fatigue,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re all right. Right now it’s fixing to get real thick and heavy. Because we’ve got three games next week.”

In his 1/3 of an inning, Sanders hit leadoff man Wesley Moore, walked three straight and allowed two runs on wild pitches.

Brown came on and got Drew Potter to fly out and made the third putout at the plate when he covered home after a wild pitch and tagged out Brian Chastain.

Brown’s biggest jam after that was in the third when he walked Moore and Jaleel Tyler, his first two hitters of the inning. But catcher Chris McClendon made a throw to catch Moore in a rundown for the first out then Brown struck out Blake Manning and got Chastain to fly out.

McClendon reached on an infield hit as Gwatney began to rally from its 2-0 deficit in the second. Colts starter Nick Graves hit Zach Traylor with one out and Brown then drove in McClendon with his first single.

Alex Tucker hit a sacrifice fly to score Traylor and tie it.

D’Vone McClure led off the third when he drove Graves’ last pitch, a 2-2 fastball, over the left-field fence to make it 3-2.

McClendon reached on Corey Jones’ outfield fielding error and scored when Jesse Harbin doubled, and Harbin came in on Brown’s second single to make it 5-2.

“The first and second inning we didn’t really do very much and then we kind of got on that little kid,” Hickingbotham said. “The harder they throw the better we are. I think our kids really like it.”

Sanders capped Gwatney’s scoring when he hit a two-RBI single in the fourth to drive in McClure, who doubled with one out, and Alex Williamson, who walked.

McClure finished 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI; Sanders and Brown had two RBI and Harbin was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI.

Gwatney advanced to the second-place game by beating the Sylvan Hills Optimist Bruins 5-2 Saturday following its 12-8 loss to Sheridan.

“We needed it after messing around with Sheridan,” Hickingbotham said. “We made too many mistakes and they beat us 11-8 and we just didn’t play very good defensively. We’re just going to give them a day off tomorrow and try to get ready to play Tuesday and Thursday.”