Tuesday, April 05, 2011

SPORTS >> Vacation over, Devils get to work

Leader sports editor

It was a vacation but not a picnic.

The Jacksonville Red Devils went 2-2 in their spring break trip to the Panama City, Fla., Invitational, a performance coach Larry Burrows chalked up to poor concentration and blamed, partially, on the distractions of travel.

“We didn’t play all that well. I guess some of that’s expected,” Burrows said. “It was designed to go down there and play but it was also designed to have a good time. We played okay; we could have played better.”

The Red Devils took a 5-4 loss to Florida High in their opener, beat Chattanooga (Tenn.) Grace 14-0, took a 17-3 loss to Rutherford (Fla.) and beat Godby (Fla.) 14-13.

“The first game we were better than the team that beat us and we had a pretty poor approach to what we were trying to do up there at the plate,” Burrows said.

“I thought the next three games we had a lot better approach but we didn’t pitch and play defense in those three.”

Rutherford went on to beat Mosley (Fla.) 11-9 for the championship and complete a 4-0 run through the invitational.

“One team went 4-0 and another went 0-4 and everyone else went 2-2,” Burrows said. “So I think a lot of people were in the same boat. A lot of that you can attribute to spring break.”

While the beach and the sunshine were highlights of the trip, Jacksonville’s D’Vone McClure provided the highlights on the field as he went 9 for 12 during the tournament.

“He wore it out,” Burrows said. “I think he’s hit five home runs already, six, something like that.”

But Burrows felt, as a team, the Red Devils were already struggling with their mental approach before they ever left Arkansas. He said he saw improvement after Jacksonville (10-3) returned home to sweep a 6A-East doubleheader last week. The Red Devils outscored the Parkview Patriots 25-1.

“We weren’t playing great when we went down there,” Burrows said.

“Other than the first game I thought we did some things well after that. The Parkview game we came out and we were better than they were and I just feel like we’re getting better.”

Burrows said the Devils refocused at the plate before the invitational was over but he was unhappy with the fielding.

“Since we’ve come back we’ve been working a lot on defense,” he said.

Jacksonville was headed to West Memphis for a conference game Tuesday evening.

McClure, the center fielder, is batting close to .500, Burrows said, and is Jacksonville’s hitting leader.

Shortstop Jacob Abrahamson is hitting close to .500 and catcher Patrick Castleberry is batting around .400, Burrows said.

Abrahamson has also seen pitching duty and has been solid on the mound, Borrows said. Abrahamson combined with Noah Sanders to no-hit Grace at Panama City.

“Abe’s had a good outing every time he’s been out and Noah has had a good outing other than once,” Burrows said.

Burrows said Abrahamson and Sanders have been as solid as Jesse Harbin and Mike Lamb, a duo he expected to perform well at the start of the season.

“They’ve pitched with them and at times they’ve thrown better than them. That’s been good to see,” Burrows said.

Xavier Brown has also turned in some quality stints on the mound Burrows said.

The extra pitching help has been good to see with Nick Rodriguez sidelined after taking a line drive to the face early this year.

Rodriguez, who had to have reconstructive surgery, made the trip to Florida and has been cleared to return. Burrows was hoping to get him an inning or two at West Memphis on Tuesday.