Friday, April 06, 2012

SPORTS >> Jacksonville hits slump, loses three consecutive

Leader sports editor

The week after one of the Jacksonville baseball team’s best weeks of the season, it had one of its worst. The Red Devils lost three times this week. On Tuesday they lost both ends of a 6A East Conference doubleheader at Jonesboro, then fell to Suttgart at home on Thursday to fall to 6-12 on the season and 2-4 in conference play.

“We just didn’t swing the bats very well all week,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “Last week we did really good. I thought our pitching was decent. We threw the ball pretty well.”

Last week Jacksonville won two games in which it was a considerable underdog, beating first-round draft prospect Trey Killian and Mountain Home on Tuesday, then shutting out 14-5 Sylvan Hills 2-0 last Thursday.

This week the Red Devils lost 6-4 and 6-2 to Jonesboro and 4-0 to Stuttgart. While the bats weren’t on fire in game one against the Hurricane, the Red Devils did get seven base hits. It was errors and unearned runs that aided Jonesboro’s victory. Playing as the home team in game one of the double dip, Jacksonville trailed 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Five of Jonesboro’s runs were unearned.

The Red Devils rallied with two runs in each of the last two innings. Freshman Derek St. Clair led off the inning with a single and moved to third on two sacrifice flies. With two outs, D’Vone McClure, Jesse Harbin and Greg Jones got consecutive base hits to score two runs and put together the Red Devils’ best offensive inning of the game.

Harbin took the loss on the mound, giving up just six hits, but hitting two batters and walking two others. St. Clair and Jones led Jacksonville offensively with two hits each.

In game two, Jonesboro got a huge third inning with two home runs and five runs scored off freshman pitcher James Tucker. Jacksonville scored two in the top of the fourth and Jonesboro set the final margin with a run in the bottom of the same inning.

Jacksonville scarcely threatened Stuttgart on Thursday. The Red Devils got just three hits, one in the first, one in the second and one in the seventh. Greg Jones, Ragan Jones and St. Clair accounted for those base hits.

Youth and inexperience has been an obstacle to overcome for Jacksonville all season, but Burrows thinks his team can overcome a bad week.

“You go through these spells,” Burrows said. “Even good teams are going to slump a little bit. We did it last year. It’s about how you get through it and come out on the other side.”