Tuesday, July 05, 2011

SPORTS >> 14-under All Stars go 1-1

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville 14-year-old All-Star team came up short in its first tournament at the Stars and Stripes Invitational in Lakewood.

Jacksonville beat England 5-2 Friday night, then fell 12-8 to Hot Springs Saturday in pool play. The All-Stars were matched up with Hot Springs again in bracket play Sunday morning, losing 6-5 in the final inning.

“The kids are coming together,” said coach Jason Carpenter. “We got behind on Saturday, but never gave up. Today (Sunday) we had them beat, but just couldn’t finish them off.”

Sunday got off to a rough start for Jacksonville before the game ever began. As the four seed, Jacksonville was originally scheduled to play third-seeded England at 10 a.m. The bracket was incorrect however as England allowed fewer runs than Hot Springs, and so was the two seed with Hot Springs moving to the three.

That meant that the Jacksonville players, who arrived at 9 a.m., had to find something to do and somewhere to go as the game time was moved back to 11:15 as soon as Hot Springs could get there.

After both teams went three up and three down in the first inning, Jacksonville struck first for three runs in the top of the second. Justice Austin reached on an error, Zac Watkins walked and Courtland McDonald singled and each came around to score. Starting pitcher Austin Huhn had a sacrifice fly in the inning.

Huhn, who started and got the win against England, had some uncharacteristic control issues in the bottom of the inning that helped Hot Springs tie the game 3-3. Two singles sprinkled between four walks allowed three runs to score. Huhn struck out Hot Springs’ top hitter with the bases loaded to hold off the huge inning.

Jacksonville took the lead in the fourth inning when Donte Harris walked and scored on McDonald’s triple. The visitors added an insurance run in the fifth thanks to Laderrious Perry leading off the inning with a walk and scoring on Huhn’s fielder’s choice. A pop up to first stranded two runners on base.

Leading 5-3 in the final inning, Huhn took the mound to try and finish the game. But after a hard single and a walk, the big freshman was taken out after pitching four innings in the severe heat.

Zac Watkins was brought in to try and get his second save of the tourney and quickly got an out when a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position.

A walk loaded the bases, giving Jacksonville a chance at a force out at any base and a double play to end the game. The next batter hit a bloop single just over the infield for the first run, while an error on the batter brought home the tying run with the bases still loaded.

The next batter worked the count to full and fought off two Watkins’ fastballs foul before the final pitch missed just high, forcing home the winning run for Hot Springs.

Hot Springs lost to Bryant in the semifinals. Bryant defeated England in the championship game Sunday night.

Jacksonville won its first game Friday night, 5-2, against England behind the duo of Huhn and Watkins on the mound. Huhn started and went four innings, allowing just three hits and two runs — both unearned — while striking out four. Watkins came in and slammed the door for the save with two groundouts on three pitches and a strikeout to end the game.

The 14-year-old All-Stars, the oldest all-star team in Jacksonville, will play their first state tournament game Friday at 11 a.m. in Benton against Pine Bluff.