Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney juniors on a roll

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s junior American Legion team won three more games in recent days while the senior team dropped its fourth-straight zone game on Monday. The junior squad (17-2) swept a doubleheader with Sheridan on Saturday, and beat Benton 3-1 on Monday.

The senior squad, which consists largely of junior players, fell 8-3 to Russellville on Sunday.

Jacksonville did most of its damage in one inning of each game at Sheridan. In a 10-9 victory in game one, The Yellowjackets took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Jacksonville scored two in the top of the second and seven in the third to take a 9-3 lead.

The Chevy Boys scored eight in the first inning of game two’s 9-5 victory.

“Our pitching has been pretty good,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We’ve walked a few too many but we’re not giving up a whole lot of base hits. Our fielding has fallen off. We’re committing too many errors and that’s got to change. We’ve got too many good ball players out there to be making that many mistakes.”

In game one, Jacksonville pitcher Brandon Hickingbotham got off to a rocky start by hitting two batters, walking one and giving up a single and three runs before recording an out, but he made up for two of those runs with a two-RBI double in the bottom of the second inning.

Sheridan began to struggle to find the strike zone in the third. Three walks combined with two base hits and an error led to Gwatney’s big inning. DeAundrey Harris and Trevor Ransom accounted for the hits, with Harris’ shot driving in one run and Ransom’s bringing home two.

Jacksonville booted the ball around the infield in giving up three unearned runs in the bottom of the third. Middle infield errors on three-straight Sheridan at bats sparked the rally and made the score 9-6.

A leadoff single by Tyson Flowers and a two-out single by Hickingbotham produced Jacksonville’s final run in the top of the sixth inning, but Sheridan made a strong run in the bottom of the last inning to make it interesting.

Two walks and an error led to Sheridan’s first two runs of the inning. James Bradford then hit an RBI single with two outs, but Zack Watkins struck out the last batter of the game to seal the win and earn the save.

Jacksonville got its first four batters of game two on base without touching the ball. Two walks were followed by two hit batters before Flowers drilled a three-RBI double. After one out, the free bases were again issued four more times in a row. Three walks and a hit batter put two more runs across the plate. Dante Harris drove in the last run with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Sheridan scored three in the bottom of the first, but could never make it as close as game one. Brandon Hawkins started on the mound and got the win with Ransom earning the save.

Ransom also got two RBIs while Courtland McDonald added one to drive in the three runs against Benton on Monday.

Watkins faced all but one batter in earning the win. He ran into some trouble with two walks to start the last inning, but LaDerrious Perry came in with the bases loaded and two outs to strike out the only batter he faced and earn the save.

The senior team fell to 1-4 in zone play and 5-7 overall with the loss to Russellville. The elder Chevy Boys will begin play in the Jacksonville Classic at 5 p.m. today against North Little Rock.