Friday, March 18, 2011

SPORTS>>Big innings push Devils to victory

Leader sports editor

Little Rock Hall was slow to arrive and then Jacksonville made quick work of the Warriors in a 13-0, five-inning victory at Dupree Park on Thursday.

The Red Devils posted two five-run innings while pitchers Jesse Harbin and Xavier Brown didn’t allow a hit as Jacksonville beat Hall by the 10-run rule in a game delayed an hour because of issues with Hall’s transportation.

“We’re going to be around the plate; we’re going to throw strikes,” coach Larry Burrows said. “We’re going to pound the zone. When you throw strikes good things can happen to you.”

Jacksonville (5-1) posted a five-run first, taking advantage of four walks and a hit batter from Hall starter Justin Jackson, with catcher Patrick Castleberry hitting a three-run home run over the center-field wall as nine batted in the inning.

The Devils went down in order in the second but erupted again with another five-run inning during their third.

Jackson walked two in the inning while D’Vone McClure reached on an error. Jacob Abrahamson hit an RBI single, Jake Lovercheck hit a two-run double and Brown contributed a sacrifice fly.

“I thought we had a real mature approach; it’s easy to go up there and just swing once when you’re up 11-0,” Burrows said of his team’s patient presence at the plate that produced 10 walks and the two big innings.

Noah Sanders doubled and scored in the Red Devils’ fourth, as reliever Keion Thorton walked four, and Brown hit a two-run single to cap the scoring. Then Brown sat the Warriors down in order in the fifth to complete his two-inning stint and the game.

Harbin struck out six and walked one in his three innings and Brown struck out two and walked none. Hall’s only base runners were Alante Carter, who reached on an error to open the game, and Davonte Hokes, who walked to lead off the second.

Brown and Sanders, who singled and scored in the third, were the only Red Devils with multi-hit games.

“I thought we had a good approach,” Burrows said. “It’s easy to sort of get lackadaisical up there when you’re up nine, 10 runs. I thought we really competed and scratched out.

“Even when the pitcher got a little slower, it’s real easy to go up there and give away at-bats.”

Brown’s pitching effort was especially welcome to Burrows because staff member Nick Rodriguez is out indefinitely after taking a line drive to the face against Greenbrier just over two weeks ago.

“He’s been in the plans and he’s been more in the plans now that Nick is out,” Burrows said of Brown.

Rodriguez had reconstructive surgery and had just gotten his doctor’s release in time to join the Red Devils in the dugout Thursday.

Burrows said there was a chance Rodriguez could return to the field sometime this season, but for now he is just happy to see his pitcher healing and able to join the team for its spring break trip to play in Panama, Fla.

Jacksonville departs today.

“There’s some talk he might be back,” Burrows said. “I’m just glad he’s getting to go with us to Florida. The doctor released him today so that’s a good sign. When we come back, then we’ll worry about what we can do after that.

“He’s a tough kid and I wouldn’t put anything past him.”