Tuesday, April 17, 2012

SPORTS >> Lady Devil bats better in road win at WMHS

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devil softball team pulled even in league play on Monday with a 9-0 road win over West Memphis. The 6A East victory followed a 1-2 performance at a tournament in Woodlawn over the weekend.

“We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t play lights out,” Jacksonville coach Kevin Sullivan said. “I think we have improved throughout the year. West Memphis made us earn our runs this time. We run ruled them earlier because they were messing up routine plays. They didn’t do that this time. They’ve gotten a lot better, but so have we. We’re hoping to be playing our best ball right at the end. That’s what you shoot for.”

The Lady Devils (6-10, 5-6) got three runs in three different innings, starting in the bottom of the first. Haley Hickingbotham doubled to reach in the first. Cojya Hood and Mailani Walker got RBI base hits and Bailey Mallison got an RBI on a sacrifice grounder to make it 3-0.

In the third inning, Bailea Jones, Alexis Goodman and Whitney house were responsible for Jacksonville’s three runs that made it 6-0.

In the top of the seventh, Keke Alcorn singled, Shyrel McKinney and Walker then picked up RBI base hits, and House came through with another run-scoring double that set the final margin.

House was also good on the mound. She went the distance, giving up just four hits while striking out six and walking one.

“The good thing is we’re getting good at bats up and down the lineup,” Sullivan said. “Earlier in the year, if we didn’t get it at the top, we were in trouble. We struck the ball very well, we just hit it right at people a lot and like I said, West Memphis wasn’t making the mistakes they made the first time. But I’m very pleased with how we’ve improved down the lineup.”

One constant for Jacksonville has been Hickingbotham, who is hitting for a .560 average this season. She went 1 for 5 against West Memphis and the Lady Devils scored nine runs.

“I know she was about as frustrated as I’ve ever seen her,” Sullivan said of Hickingbotham. She even struck out for the first time all year. Everyone has bad games now and then, but for us it was a good sign. For her to struggle like that and we still score nine runs is good for us. It’s real evidence that we are getting more production from other people. I’m encouraged by the way we swung the bats.”

In Friday’s games at Wood-lawn, Jacksonville beat McGehee 10-0 then lost 8-0 to Woodlawn. The loss put them in the third place game against Rose Bud on Saturday. Jacksonville lost that game 8-5.

“McGehee just wasn’t very good to be honest,” Sullivan said. “Against Woodlawn I was very disappointed in the fact that I just didn’t feel like we competed. There was no energy. Woodlawn is a good team, but I just didn’t feel like they got our best, and that’s disappointing as a coach.

“I was very pleased with how they came back on Saturday and played Rose Bud. Rose Bud was an impressive team. They’re going to compete in their classification. We really battled in that game. We didn’t win, but I at least felt like we gave our best effort and competed well with a very good team.”

Jacksonville also got Whitney House’s twin sister Alexis House back on the field in JV action on Monday.

She missed the last two seasons with two separate knee injuries. She returned on Monday, pitching three innings in junior varsity action and getting one hit on one at bat.

“We don’t know exactly how much she’s ready to contribute, but it’s a good start,” Sullivan said. “Having her would help us. It gives us more pitching depth and she adds a pretty good stick to the lineup. She’s been very frustrated not being able to play, so we’re all really hoping she can come back and be a part of things this year.”

Jacksonville played Searcy at home on Tuesday, and will host Hall next Tuesday in another conference matchup.