Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Simmons rally tops Gwatney

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s senior American Legion team stayed one run ahead of Pine Bluff Simmons for the majority of Saturday’s game. Gwatney Chevrolet led by the same margin going into the seventh inning, but in that final inning, Pine Bluff scored three runs to grab its first lead of the day and earn a 7-5 win at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Pine Bluff scored the first two runs to start the game, but in the bottom of the first, Jacksonville could do no wrong at the plate en route to a four-run rally to lead 4-2. Pierce Sloan started on the mound for Pine Bluff, but was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded in the first after giving up three runs.

Will Jacobs of 2012 class 2A state champion Woodlawn came in to relieve Sloan and made Jacksonville’s experience at the plate more of a challenge. Troy Allen scored Gwatney’s fourth run on a wild pitch by Jacobs. It was one of the few mistakes Jacobs would make as he finished the game with 12 strikeouts to just three walks in the winning effort. Half of Jacksonville’s strikeouts in the game came as a result of watching the third strike go by, which didn’t leave Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham feeling too happy about his team’s effort at the plate.

“When we got up (to the plate), we looked like we had never swung a bat,” Hickingbotham said. “We had too many people not swinging the bat on third strikes. You can’t win like that. We have too many guys that have everything but baseball on their mind right now, and we’re going to try to get that worked out.”

In the second inning, Pine Bluff cut Jacksonville’s lead to one when Nick Hefley hit a line-drive single to the gap in right field, which allowed Jacobs to score after singling earlier in the inning. After a scoreless third inning, Pine Bluff tied the game at four apiece in the fourth after Landen Colson hit an RBI-single to left field.

Leadoff hitter Justin Dardenne scored on the play after hitting a triple to start the inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Jacksonville retook the lead when Derek St. Clair scored from third base on a ground ball hit by pitcher Jesse Harbin.

The next two innings were scoreless and Jacksonville held a 5-4 lead going into the seventh. Second baseman Jacob Richardson walked to leadoff the final inning, and scored the tying run for Pine Bluff when D.J. Dickson hit a hard line drive to right field for an RBI single.

Jacobs drove in the go-ahead run for Pine Bluff on a hard grounder to third base. Jacobs was thrown out on a close play at first, but Christopher Bryan scored from third on the contact. The next batter, Josh Dardenne, drove in the final run of the day with a single to right field. Dickson scored with ease to make the score 7-5.

Harbin and Alex Tucker led Jacksonville with two hits apiece. James McCranie and Blake Perry also had a base hit. Jacksonville (5-9) will play again tomorrow on the opening day of its annual Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion Classic tournament held at Dupree Park.