Friday, June 01, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Two hitter gets win in Gwatney’s first game

Leader sports editor

There was very little offensive action in Gwatney’s Senior American Legion opener at Dupree Park Wednesday night against Little Rock Blue. There was so little, it eventually became an exciting pitcher’s duel between Jacksonville’s Xavier Brown and Blue’s Brandon Schmidt. Neither pitcher gave up a run, but a pitching change eventually doomed the visiting team as Gwatney got away with a 1-0 victory.

Brown was masterful for seven innings. He gave up just two hits and struck out 13 LR Blue batters. He hit one batter and walked no one.

“That was great right there,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “We’re going to need him to be one of our aces because Jesse (Harbin) can’t do it all. He’s a good ball player and has good stuff. He loves to play ball and loves to have fun, but sometimes too much. He’s always smiling and laughing and joking around with teammates. If we could get him to focus a little more, there’s no telling how good he could be.”

Harbin has been the ace on the Jacksonville High School and American Legion pitching staffs the last two years. Brown was a good pitcher for both teams as a senior last year, but never turned in a performance like he did on Wednesday while still in high school.

In his first start for Gwatney after a year playing for Arkansas Baptist College, even he was a little surprised at how dominant he was in his American Legion opener.

“I don’t really know where it came from,” Brown said. “I was just pitching.”

The game-winning run came in the bottom of the sixth inning after Blue took Schmidt off the mound. The reliever had trouble finding the strike zone early in the inning. He hit Brown to start the inning and walked James McCranie. Jared Wilson then singled to right field, but his hit was too hard to score Brown from second base. Courtland McDonald struck out for the first out.

Derek St. Clair then hit a bloop single to right field, but Brown tagged at first and was thrown out on the force play at the plate. Catcher Troy Allen then worked the count full with several foul balls before walking to drive home the winning run.

Jacksonville got just three hits off Schmidt and five total. McCranie got two of them and was the only player in the game with multiple base hits. He reached base safely every time at bat, drawing walks in his other two plate appearances.

Gwatney senior team’s next game will be a zone matchup at Conway on Monday. It’s a junior/senior doubleheader with the junior game scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.