Saturday, March 10, 2012

SPORTS >> Devils earn first win over Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devil baseball team got its first win of the season Wednesday, beating Beebe 2-1 in the final round of the Red Devil Classic at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

The Red Devils got an excellent outing on the mound from senior starting pitcher D’Vone McClure. Freshmen Derek St. Clair got three up, three down in the fifth, and Jacksonville got two innings of shut-down relief from senior Jesse Harbin. The trio combined to no-hit the Badgers.

“The plan was to only throw Plucky (McClure) for two innings, but he kept going out there and throwing really well,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “St. Clair went in there and did a really good job of filling the gap because we didn’t want to throw Jesse for three. And of course we know what we’re going to get from him. He’s been through the battles and he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve coached.”

Jacksonville got four hits in the game and committed two errors, but came up with big plays when they were needed. Getting a win was important, according to Burrows.

“I’m encouraged and I think the kids are encouraged,” Burrows said. “I’m happy for the win, but I’m mainly happy they played good enough to get a win. It’s frustrating when you’re competitive and can’t get a win. So this was good for them. I think we’re going in the right direction. It’s not all fixed in one outing for sure. It’s not going to be. We need six or seven weeks of continued progress and the last two games we’ve done that.”

Beebe pitcher Jay Aschbrenner also pitched a great game, throwing all seven innings, giving up just three hits, only one of which got out of the infield.

Jacksonville got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning.

Leadoff hitter Tanner Burks was hit by a pitch. He moved to second base on a deep fly ball to right field by McClure, then scored on a single up the middle by Harbin with two outs.

The Red Devils made it 2-0 in the bottom of the second. Freshman Caleb McDonald singled to lead things off, but wasn’t the one that scored. After Cole Bredenberg bunted McDonald to second, he was caught stealing third by Beebe catcher Byars Hatford.

David Williams then walked, and scored on an error at second base off the bat of Burks.

The Red Devils got one infield single in the third, and one in the sixth. They also got runners on after a strikeout passed ball, a hit batter and an error, but couldn’t push any of the runners across the plate.

Beebe wasn’t without base runners. Jacksonville walked five batters, hit two and committed two errors, but gutsy pitching by Jacksonville and Beebe’s own base running mistakes prevented the Badgers from completing a comeback.

In the top of the fourth, Justin Browning reached on an error with two outs. Aschbrenner was hit by a pitch on the next at bat and Zach May walked. Browning then scored on a wild pitch, but St. Clair fanned the next batter to get out of trouble.

St. Clair hit Beebe leadoff hitter Dakota Lovston with one out in the fifth inning, but picked him off at first for the second out. He then finished his day by getting Than Kersey to fly out to right field.

Jacksonville freshman catcher Greg Jones had a fine day behind the plate as well. He caught one Beebe base runner stealing second, and picked another off at first base.

He’s getting better, him and (Justin) Abbot,” Burrows said. “They’re going to get better. We get frustrated with them at times but they’re ninth graders and they’re working hard.

“With Jones, just the way he’s receiving the ball, the improvements he’s made in the last two weeks are really, really big. The improvements we’ve seen from those two are not things everybody else is going to see, but in the last three weeks, they’ve gotten a lot better.”