Friday, June 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney gets by Ricemen

Leader sports editor

SHERIDAN – Win today, look good tomorrow. That’s what the Gwatney Senior American Legion team took away from its opening round win in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic.

A good day at the plate combined with a dismal defensive performance was still good enough for Gwatney to beat Stuttgart 12-4 on Thursday.

Not often does a team commit seven errors and win by eight runs, but that’s what happened for Jacksonville against the Ricemen.

Gwatney pitcher Xavier Brown threw to all but one batter and gave up just one base hit in four and two-third innings of work, but he walked five, including two in the last inning, while the defense committed five errors in that same frame.

“It’s mind boggling,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “I put some young guys in there because some of the older ones aren’t hitting the ball. But the youngers are committing too many errors.”

Take out the last inning and it was a pretty good day for the Chevy Boys.

Stuttgart grabbed a quick and short-lived lead in the top of the first when an error by Tucker in left field left Stuttgart leadoff hitter Jon Curtis safe at second base. He stole third base and the throw from catcher Greg Jones made its way into left field as well, allowing Curtis to score.

Jacksonville got things rolling right away when leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair hit the first pitch over the shortstop’s head for a base hit. Alex Tucker grounded out, but St. Clair stole third and scored when the throw sailed into left field.

Jesse Harbin and Brown got back-to-back singles and Chris McClendon walked to load the bases. Jacob Abrahamson singled for an RBI and Arvie Crudup drove in one run with a grounder to shortstop for a 3-1 Jacksonville lead.

Gwatney added to its lead in the third with four more runs. Tucker got it started by drawing a one-out walk. Harbin grounded out to third, but a two-out rally followed. Brown walked and McClendon got an infield single to shortstop to score Tucker. Abrahamson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Crudup then worked the count full, and with runners going, drove a 3-2 pitch into the gap in left-centerfield for three RBIs and a 7-1 Gwatney lead.

The Chevy Boys did one better in the third, scoring five more runs. Greg Jones walked to start the rally. St. Clair reached on an error at shortstop and Tucker reached on an error in centerfield. Harbin singled to center to drive in Jones and St. Clair. Brown was hit to load the bases again.

McClendon hit into a 3-2 fielder’s choice that got Tucker thrown out at home. Abrahamson then walked to drive in Harbin.

Brown scored on a wild pitch. Crudup walked to load them up again and Kenny Cummings hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that scored McClendon and made the score 12-1.

The wheels came off for Jacksonville in the top of the fifth, but not enough to keep the game going into further innings. Brown got the first two batters to fly out, but an out became elusive after that.

Errors by Harbin, Blake Perry, Troy Allen and Austin Allen surrounded walks and a run-scoring balk by Brown that added up to three runs for Stuttgart.

With the bases loaded and the run rule in danger of being overcome, Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham put Harbin on the mound. Harbin struck out Hunter Harris on three pitches to seal the win.

Gwatney, 3-3, played Hot Springs Village in the second round of pool play last night after The Leader’s deadlines. They will finish pool play at 12:30 p.m. today against Little Rock Continental. The four winners of the four-team pools begin the semifinals of tournament play at noon on Sunday.