Friday, May 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> JHS gets split, will settle for four seed

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils split a 5A Central doubleheader with Pulaski Academy on Tuesday. Jacksonville hammered the Bruins 11-2 in game one, but a bad first inning was the difference in a 5-1 loss in the nightcap in west Little Rock.

Jacksonville finishes conference play 10-4 and will settle for the No. 4 seed in the state tournament that’s scheduled to begin next Friday in Nettleton. Little Rock Christian finished 12-2 and will be the one seed. Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills tied at 11-3, but the Bruins will get the three seed because they swept the Bears last week.

The only difference be-tween Jacksonville and the other three is that the Red Devils were the only team in the top four not to sweep at least one of the other top four.

“That’s just a maturity thing,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “I don’t mean we’re immature. I mean we’re just young and inexperienced. To stay focused for that long, through two full games, against really good teams, and get a sweep, that’s a sign of an experienced, veteran ball club. We just haven’t gotten there yet. We beat Christian and PA in game one, but just didn’t keep it together through game two and that was the only difference. I’m not complaining about it. I’m satisfied with how my kids have performed this year. I think they’ve done great. We’re much better than when the season started and we’re playing pretty good right now. We have a chance to make some noise.”

Little Rock Christian was the only team not to be swept. The Warriors split with Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville, and swept PA. Jacksonville was swept by Sylvan Hills.

On Tuesday, the Bruins took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but Red Devil pitcher Derek St. Clair shut them down over the next five innings.

Jacksonville scored three in the top of the second, one in the fifth and six in the sixth inning to take a 10-1 lead. Each team scored one run in the seventh to set the final margin.

Jacksonville only had five RBIs in the game off its 10 base hits, but putting the ball in play put pressure on the Bruins that it didn’t handle well. The Red Devils scored on several passed balls and wild pitches. Kaleb Reeves, Greg Jones and Ryan Mallison each finished with two base hits. Mallison added two RBIs to lead the way offensively for the Red Devils.

St. Clair went the distance, giving up just four hits while striking out and walking three apiece.

James Tucker started on the mound in game two. After a rough opening inning, he settled down and held the Bruins scoreless in the second, third and fourth innings.

Pulaski Academy scored four in the first off three hits, two hit batters and a walk. Jacksonville had opportunities to get back into the game. The Red Devils loaded the bases with two outs in the third and fifth innings, but luck wasn’t on their side. Both scoring opportunities ended with line drive outs to right field.

“We hit it pretty good both times, just bad breaks,” Burrows said. “We got two runners on in the sixth and just couldn’t bring them around. We only struck out four times against their best pitcher. We just couldn’t get them down for hits. But we put the ball in play and that’s what I ask of them.” Jacksonville also got just four base hits, two by St. Clair and one each from Jones and Mallison. Jacksonville will play a nonconference game against Little Rock Christian on Monday in Little Rock.