Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney ousted by Colts in zone

Leader sports staff

After a comeback win over Russellville, the Jacksonville Senior American Legion team fell 11-3 to tournament host North Little Rock on Sunday in the Zone 3 tournament at Burns Park.

“We blew a lot of chances to score with bad base running,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “We let some balls drop that we should’ve caught with a little more effort out in the outfield. And we missed signs at the plate because we don’t want to bunt.”

The tone was different against Russellville.

Xavier Brown was the hero on the mound on Saturday, while Chris McClendon knocked in four runs as Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet rallied twice to defeat Russellville 8-7 during the first elimination game of the tournament.

McClendon’s turns at the plate were critical for the Chevy Boys, who fell behind 5-1 early against Post 20 before tying things up in the top of the fifth inning and eventually taking the lead two frames later.

His single to left field in the top of the ninth scored Jesse Harbin to give the lead back to Jacksonville for the final time, as Brown finished the game as strong as when he took over for starter James McCrainey in the bottom of the third inning.

Russellville took the early advantage with a flurry of runs, including a two-run home run by first baseman Cory Seheide in the bottom of the third. But Brown, who started the game at first base, held Post 20 scoreless from the fourth inning until the bottom of the eighth, when they scored two runs to tie the game at 7-7 and threatened to take the game past its scheduled nine innings.

Harbin led off the top of the ninth by reaching on an outfield error, made his way to second base and advanced to third on a groundout to the pitcher by Brown, setting the stage for McClendon’s winning hit.

Russellville pitcher Jordan Haas held Gwatney scoreless until the top of the third when right fielder Jarod Wilson reached on an error and scored two batters later on a pop up by Jacob Abrahamson.

The Chevy Boys still had a long way to go, however, trailing 5-1 after three innings, but McClendon made up another run in the top of the fourth when he walked and scored when McCrainey sent a single into the corner of right field.

The top of the fifth was the turning point for Jacksonville. Troy Allen led off with a triple to right field and scored when Abrahamson popped up to right to make it 5-3. Kenny Cummings then grounded out to shortstop to give Gwatney its second out, but singles by Alex Tucker and Harbin kept it alive.

Brown loaded the bases when he hit a grounder to shortstop and narrowly beat the throw to first, and McClendon cashed in on the frustration of Russellville shortstop Trenton Lax when his throw to first went errant to score Tucker and Harbin to tie the game.

Jacksonville finally took the lead in the top of the seventh when Tucker doubled to right and scored on an RBI single by McClendon to make it 6-5, and Wilson led off the top of the eighth with a single to left before scoring on an infield error when Cummings grounded to third base.

Brown gave up only one hit in his six innings on the mound. That came in the bottom of the eighth inning when Hayden Kimmerman grounded to left field.

Brown then hit No. 9 hitter Luke Duvall with a pitch to put the tying run at first base, and an error by Harbin at shortstop on a grounder by leadoff batter Haas scored Kimmerman.

Michael Thompson tied the game for Post 20 when he popped up to centerfield and allowed Duvall to tag up at third.

Brown struck out a total of nine batters, but none bigger than when he got Matt Sims looking in the bottom of the ninth for the final out.

McClendon was 2 for 5 for Gwatney with four RBI. Tucker was 2 for 5 with a double and Wilson was 2 for 5 with two runs. For Russellville, Lax was 2 for 5 with an RBI.

Base running mistakes ruined several scoring opportunities for Gwatney against the Colts on Sunday. Three times Gwatney base runners overran bases or ran into lead runners to get picked off.

Jacksonville looked good offensively in the first and ninth innings on Sunday, but produced very little in between. The Chevy Boys scored a run on two base hits, a walk and an error, but left the bases loaded in the first inning. Abrahamson and Cummings got back-to-back triples to start the ninth inning.

Tucker scored Cummings from third with a sacrifice grounder, but two more groundouts ended the game and Gwatney’s season.