Tuesday, April 03, 2012

SPORTS >> Red Devils surprise rival Bears, get shutout

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got an outstanding performance from a freshman on the mound that led the Red Devils to a 2-0 victory over rival Sylvan Hills on Friday at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Ninth-grader James Tucker went the seven-inning distance for Jacksonville, giving up six hits while walking none and striking out three Bears.

Another key to the victory was outstanding defense by the home team. Sophomore Kaleb Reeves made a series of great plays at third base, especially in the late innings. Cole Bredenberg made a diving catch in right field and Greg Jones’ fully-stretched diving stab of a line drive ended the game in the top of the seventh inning.

Tucker himself made a huge play to get out of a jam in the top of the sixth. Sylvan Hills’ J.D. Miller hit a hard line drive back at Tucker with two men on base and one out. Tucker kicked his right leg high in the air to get it out of the ball’s trajectory, and got his glove down to make the catch. He then had the presence of mind to throw to first to double up David Carrasquillo and end the threat.

“I’ve said all season for us to win, we’re going to have to throw strikes and make plays,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “Tucker threw strikes and we made plays behind him. We made plays all over the field. Kaleb, we haven’t had a third baseman play like this in a long time.”

Jacksonville led 1-0 after getting an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Carrasquillo pitched a good game as well for the Bears. He didn’t give up an earned run in seven innings. Jacksonville senior Ragan Jones led off the sixth by reaching on an error at shortstop.

Freshman Greg Jones laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second base and Justin Abbot struck out. Junior David Williams then doubled to left field to score Ragan Jones and set the final margin.

Carrasquillo gave up eight hits while striking out seven and also walking none.

For Sylvan Hills, Dylan Boone, Carrasquillo and Chase Imoff accounted for all of the Bears’ offense, each recording two base hits.

Jacksonville spread the wealth a bit more. Williams was the only Red Devil with multiple hits while Derek St. Clair, Jesse Harbin, Reeves, Ragan Jones, Abbot and D’Vone McClure recorded one hit apiece.

The game’s results made for a mild upset. Sylvan Hills (11-5, 4-0) had won five of its last six with its only loss coming in the finals of the large Central Arkansas Invitational Baseball Tournament.

Jacksonville (5-9, 2-2) had recently beaten Mountain Home’s top-notch prospect Trey Killian, but did that with senior ace Harbin on the mound.

“Coach (assistant coach Jeremiah) Clennn has been saying all along that our pitching was going to be pretty good,” Burrow said. “We know they’re young but I feel like our pitching has been pretty decent all season. We’re going to be pretty good on the mound. Coach Clennon has been saying that all the way back to when we started.”

Both teams were back to conference play Tuesday after The Leader’s deadlines. Sylvan Hills hosted Mills while Jacksonville traveled to Jonesboro.

Each team hosts a non-conference game on Thursday. Jacksonville faces Stuttgart while the Bears face Pulaski Academy.