Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SPORTS >> Red Devils bat around, around and around

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got hit a few times Friday night.

But the Red Devils hit a whole lot more.

Jacksonville batted around in three different innings on the way to a 23-9, non-conference victory over Cabot at the Panthers’ Conrade Field.

The Devils batted 10 in their six-run third, 11 in their seven-run fifth and 11 in the five-run sixth that wound up shortening the game an inning by the 10-run rule.

“There are going to be days when we don’t execute a little bit,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “If you got to score 20, you got to score 20 and I like that about what we did.”

Jacksonville pounded out 20 hits, including Patrick Castleberry’s two-run home run in the fifth and took advantage of 13 walks issued by Cabot pitchers, who also hit three Red Devils batters.

In the third, Cabot starter Dustin Morris hit Nick Rodriguez, who was wearing a protective mask because of a bone-shattering hit to his face that sidelined him early in the season. In the sixth, sophomore reliever Kyle Kaufman hit pinch hitter Landon Nolen, 5-1, in the helmet and reliever Jeffery Brown hit Jacob Abrahamson later in the inning.

Nolen stayed down near the plate while coaches and trainer Jason Cates looked him over, but he got to his feet before he was replaced by a pinch runner while Kaufman came in from the mound to check on Nolen and give him a pat.

“I don’t think you can walk on eggshells,” Burrows said of the game’s painful moments.

Each of Jacksonville’s first eight batters hit safely and scored at least one run, as did late entries Logan Perry, who came on to play right field, and Xavier Brown, who entered to pitch and play third.

The top of the Red Devils order — D’Vone McClure, Abrahamson, Castle-berry and Noah Sanders, combined for 11 hits, nine runs and 10 RBI. No. 8 hitter Jesse Harbin contributed four hits, including an RBI double and a pair of two-RBI singles, and scored twice.

“We’ve been playing the bottom teams in our conference and they hadn’t put any pressure onus,” said Burrows, who leads Jacksonville in the 6A-East. “This was good. We got some pressure put on us and we responded.”

Cabot, of the 7A-Central, spotted Jacksonville three runs in the first two innings, then erupted with a five-run second that featured Brandon Surdam’s high, 335-foot home run shot over the left-field wall. Bryson Morris hit a two-run double and designated hitter Cole Nicholson, the ace of Cabot’s pitching staff when available, added an RBI single.

But Nicholson had used up his innings in Cabot’s doubleheader against Little Rock Central on Thursday, and as it turned out the Panthers could have used him as coach Jay Fitch was forced to throw two sophomores and a freshman among the five pitchers he used.

“It’s funny how the personality of a game can shape up,” Fitch said. “My disappointment was with all the walks.”

Jacksonville (13-3) posted its big third as Cabot pitchers walked four, hit one and threw a wild pitch and the defense committed two errors, to go ahead 9-5 and take the lead for good.

“When we got behind 5-3 I said, ‘Guys we haven’t been behind in about 2 ½ weeks,’” Burrows said. “I said ‘This is good for you. I want to see how we respond.’ And we scored six.”

Tyler Carter drew a bases- loaded walk for Cabot to cut it to 9-6 in the bottom of the inning while Harbin hit his RBI double to make it 10-6 in the top of the fourth. Tyler Cole hit a two-run double for Cabot in the bottom of the fourth and Daniel Fox doubled him in to cut it to 10-8.

But Jacksonville went on to score 13 runs over the fifth and sixth.