Friday, March 30, 2012

SPORTS >> Red Devils beat Top 40 prospect, Mountain Home

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville knocked off one of the nation’s top-rated pitching prospects Tuesday in front of about 40 major league scouts that were on hand at Dupree Park. The Red Devils got seven base hits and scored three early runs to win game one of a conference doubleheader 3-1.

Killian and Jacksonville outfielder D’Vone McClure have already signed with the Hogs, but Killian could be drafted high enough to lure him into professional ball right out of high school.

The Red Devils showed no fear, and McClure showed Killian up, going 2 for 3 with a walk and hitting two doubles off the outfield wall.

In one respect, Killian lived up to the hype as he struck out 12 and walked just one in a complete game performance, but the right-hander gave up three runs in the first two innings in the losing effort.

Jesse Harbin earned the win as the Red Devils pitcher. He was solid through seven innings on the mound, and was just as productive at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two RBI’s.

“He’s a bulldog,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows about Harbin. “If there’s a game, he’s coming to play, no doubt. I don’t worry about 14. I give him the ball and let him go. He’s the least of my worries. I always know what I’m going to get out of him.”

Mountain Home scored their only run in the top of the first, but Jacksonville wasn’t intimidated by Killian, even with dozens of scouts standing behind the home plate fence with their radar guns held high. Kaleb Reeves and Jacksonville’s McClure each got on base in the bottom of the first after Reeves singled and McClure hit a hard double off the wall in centerfield.

Harbin followed with a single that brought both Reeves and McClure home, and Jacksonville took a 2-1 lead. Jacksonville scored again in the third when Cole Breadenberg singled to bring McClure home to make the score 3-1.

After the third inning, Killian found his rhythm and dominated the rest of the game, but Harbin stayed strong on the mound to prevent any chance of a comeback. McClure went 2 for 3 with two doubles for the game. Reeves and Breadenberg each had a hit apiece.

The second part of the doubleheader was a different story as Jacksonville looked nothing like the team that was on the field minutes earlier. The Red Devils committed five errors in game two, and left 11 runners on base as the Bombers cruised to a 7-3 win to split the series.

“We didn’t put the ball in play near as much as we needed to,” Burrows said about the second game. “We have to put the ball in play more than we did, and we didn’t do it. We have to make some routine plays that we didn’t make too.”

Freshman Derek St. Clair started on the mound for Jacksonville, but Mountain Home didn’t have as much trouble putting the ball in play in game two. Leadoff hitter Damon Berry hit a triple to start the inning, and Killian hit a sacrifice fly to right center to bring Berry home.

Cleanup hitter Billy Wehmeyer hit a solo home run over the right field wall to give the Bombers a 2-0 lead. Mountain Home (6-7, 2-2) scored another run in the second, two more in the fourth, one more in the fifth, and one more in the sixth to put seven runs on its side of the scoreboard.

Jacksonville (5-9, 2-2) scored in the top of the third after McClure reached base on an error, then stole second and third base, and scored on an infield single from Breadenberg. Although the Red Devils trailed 7-1 heading into the final inning, they did their best to rally.

After being hit by a pitch, McClure got on base and scored from first after Harbin hit a hard double that allowed the speedy McClure to cross home plate. Harbin stole second, and freshman Greg Jones singled to knock Harbin in for the final run of the game.

Harbin led Jacksonville once again at the plate, going 2 for 2 with a single and double. Breadenberg and Jones each had a hit for the Red Devils.

Jacksonville’s youth showed in the second game as mistakes and missed opportunities hurt the Red Devils through all seven innings, but Burrows believes his team is steadily improving.

“We just have to continue to get better,” Burrows said. “We have a lot of first time starters, seven of them. We have two guys that have played before (McClure, Harbin), and we just have to continue to get experience and learn from mistakes. You never like to lose, but I think we’re going in the right direction. I’m ready to see what the finished product is going to look like at the end.”