Saturday, April 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville steals split with LRCA

Leader sports editor

Already assured of a spot in the class 5A state tournament, the Jacksonville Red Devils kept open the possibility of two or three seed after splitting a pair of 5A-Central games with Little Rock Christian on Wednesday in Little Rock.

The Warriors won game one 2-0 while Jacksonville came from behind to steal the nightcap 5-4 with a tw0-out, three-run rally.

The Red Devils’ win also did Sylvan Hills a great service, leaving the Bears alone at the top of the conference standings.

LRCA entered the game tied with Sylvan Hills inthe league standings at 7-1. The two teams had split their regular-season meetings, but the Warriors held the tiebreaker. If Sylvan Hills wins out, it will be the outright champions.

For Jacksonville, the split means it could still realistically finish anywhere from second to fourth place in conference play.

“There’s still a lot of baseball left,” Jacksonville assistant coach Jeremiah Clennon said. “Pulaski Academy still has to play us and Sylvan Hills. Those four games are going to say a lot so there’s still some shaking up that’s going to take place.”

On Wednesday, the Red Devils managed just three scattered hits in the game-one loss, though there were opportunities to score thanks to walks and Warrior errors.

“We really could’ve won both of those games, we just didn’t get it done with the bats,” Clennon said. “The pitching was great in both games. (Derek) St. Clair did a great job on the mound. We just didn’t do much offensively.”

The sophomore St. Clair threw six innings, giving up just four hits while striking out five, hitting two batters and walking two. Both of Little Rock Christian Academy’s runs were earned.

Fellow sophomore James Tucker gave up eight hits in seven innings of work in game two. He also gave up two earned runs.

The Warriors scored three runs in the top of the second inning and held that margin until the bottom of the sixth when Jacksonville finally cut into it.

With one out, Courtland McDonald got things rolling with the first of three-straight singles. St. Clair and Kaleb Reeves also singled, with Reeves’ hit driving in McDonald. Two batters later with two outs, Greg Jones singled to score St. Clair and make it 3-2.

Little Rock Christian added one run in the top of the seventh, but Jacksonville’s last inning rally allowed the Red Devils steal the win.

Ryan Mallison started the bottom of the last inning with a single to right-centerfield. But things looked bleak for Jacksonville when the next two batters up struck out. McDonald then doubled to put two runners in scoring position. St. Clair singled to score Mallison and make it 4-3. Reeves then hit the game-winning, two-RBI double to end the game.

Reeves finished 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs. Jones, St. Clair and McDonald had two hits each while D.J. Scott added a base hit to the Red Devils total.

Jacksonville (8-10, 7-3) travels to Spiro, Okla., today and will host Maumelle in nonconference play on Monday. The Red Devils get back to league play Thursday in a home doubleheader against Mills.