Friday, June 10, 2011

SPORTS>>Grand slam aids Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville senior American Legion team has been slow out of the gate, but not in terms of wins and losses, in terms of simply getting on the field. The older Gwatney Chevrolet team played just its second game of the season Tuesday night, and got its second lop-sided victory, beating visiting Cabot 10-1 at Dupree Park.

The sparse schedule so far has allowed Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham to throw his ace Jesse Harbin in both outings. Combined with good hitting, the team has hit a good stride early and scored a lot of runs.

“They’ve just picked up right where they left off in high school and are just playing outstanding,” Hickingbotham said. “Having a bunch of kids who want to be out here and know what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re out here, wanting to get better, that’s what’s carrying us. They’re swinging the bats really well, they’re not making many mistakes. I’m very pleased with how they’re started.”

Nearly the entire lineup is made up of players from the JHS’ Class 6A state-championship team. It played last night’s game with nine players from JHS, one from Parkview High and one from Greenbrier. Another player who is moving up from Magnolia, who played on that school’s Class 5A state-championship team, will join the team later this week.

“It does help having players who are all familiar with each other,” Hickinbotham said. “We’re playing a little bit out of position right now because we’re a little bit shorthanded, but I’m well pleased so far.”

Jacksonville set the tone on the first pitch when Jacob Abrahamson drove it deep over the wall in straightaway centerfield. The next three batters went down in a row, but Jacksonville’s big inning was the second.

Colt Harmon got things rolling with a leadoff double to center, and Alex Tucker singledto the same spot. Harmon scored on the next at bat when Nick Rodriguez doubled down the right-field line, and Xavier Brown walked to load the bases. That brought up Chris McClendon, who provided the highlight of the game when he muscled an inside pitch over the fence down the left-field line for a grand slam.

Abrahamson walked and scored on an RBI double by Kenny Cummings. Cummings then scored on a sacrifice fly by Patrick Castleberry to complete the scoring and give Jacksonville an 8-0 lead.

Cabot got on the board in the top of the next frame when Matt Evans’ single to center scored Bryson Morris, who had walked to start things off.

Gwatney added two more runs in the fourth off four base hits. Abrahamson doubled and Cummings singled to start the rally. Castleberry and Jesse Harbin followed up with RBI base hits to cap the scoring in the game.

Harbin started on the mound for Jacksonville and went the distance. He gave up just two hits and struck out 10 Cabot batters, but walked three and hit three and had to work out of jams throughout the game.

Jacksonville picked up 11 base hits in the five-inning affair. Abrahamson and Cummings led the way with two apiece. Abrahamson, Cummings, Castle-berry, Harmon, Rodriguez and McClendon all had extra base hits in the win.

On Thursday the Jacksonville senior team began a portion of the schedule that will make the slow start a distant memory. It plays 10 games in 11 days, beginning with this past Thursday’s matchup at home against Sylvan Hills. The Gwatney team plays today at Russellville, Sunday at home against Searcy, Monday at Cabot, Tuesday at home against Benton, and Wednesday begins play in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic that runs through next Saturday.