Friday, March 22, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils lose to ’Jackets, Pats

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils picked up two losses on the first day of the Xtra Innings Classic in Jonesboro, losing 6-0 to Wynne and 11-4 to Marion on Thursday.

Jacksonville got just two hits in the shut-out loss to Wynne. Kaleb Reeves and Courtland McDonald picking up those base hits. James Tucker and Reeves combined for a decent showing on the mound, giving up just one earned run, but errors gave the Yellowjackets five more.

“We just didn’t play very good baseball,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “We made two pretty ugly errors that led to most of their runs. Maybe getting up at 5:30 in the morning and playing in those conditions had something to do with it, but we could have still played better than we did.”

Though the margin was even wider, Burrows was much more pleased with how his team played against Marion later in the day than it did against Wynne.

“Marion’s just a good team,” Burrows said. “They hit the ball hard the whole game. That’s probably the best team we’ve seen this year, as far as hitting goes.”

Jacksonville led 3-0 after three innings with Blake Perry on the mound. He also drove home the two runs on an 11-pitch at bat. After battling through 10 pitches, Perry’s shot to the gap drove in Ryan Mallison and LaDerrious Perry for a 3-0 Red Devil lead. Earlier in the inning, Mallison drove in Derek St. Clair for the first run of the game.

The Patriots finally began to find the gaps in the fourth inning after three innings of excellent Jacksonville defense.

“We made quite a few good plays defensively to keep them from scoring,” Burrows said. “Blake started to get tired in the fourth and they started hitting him pretty hard. It kind of seemed like we all got tired there all of a sudden.”

Blake Perry actually got a one-out strikeout with a breaking ball in the dirt, but catcher Greg Jones’ throw to first base sailed into right field. Two line-drive doubles followed that sparked a six-run inning. Another fielding error later in the inning kept things alive for the Patriots.

“We can’t give people four outs,” Burrows said. “We actually gave them five, but you’re going to make occasional errors on ground balls. You hate to strike people out and then throw it away.”

Trailing 6-3, Jacksonville started a rally in the top of the fifth by getting the first three batters on base. Greg Jones’ base hit scored Blake Perry, but back-to-back strikeouts brought a sudden halt to the rally with Marion still leading 6-4. The Patriots added five more runs off Jacksonville relief pitching in the sixth inning, all earned.

“They just hit it hard all the way down the lineup,” Burrows said. “I was impressed with that team. We swung it a little better than we had been, we just weren’t able to make the most of it.”

Blake Perry led Jackson-ville offensively, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Jacksonville (3-6) is still waiting to hear about injured first baseman David Williams, who separated his shoulder on a collision two weeks ago. That will help settle some of musical positions Burrows has been playing, especially in the infield.

“Not having David is hurting pretty bad,” Burrows said. “He’s really good at first and on top of that, he’s our four-hole hitter. He’s really the only guy we’ve got that can hit for power. We need to know something about him one way or the other so we can get things settled. Blake is our best hitter right now and him and Reeves play the same position. All our pitchers are infielders so every time we make a change we have to start moving people around, and I just don’t like doing that. I’m not big on moving people around anyway. There are too many little things about this game. And when you’re young, you hate to do it even more. Hopefully we’ll get David back to at least swing the bat. There’s a chance they won’t let him throw at all.”