Monday, June 17, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville jumps out, beats vipers

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team improved to 4-0 Thursday with a 6-2 win over the Little Rock Vipers in the first round of the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan.

The Chevy Boys got a gem on the mound from pitcher Jared Wilson, who gave up just three hits in seven innings of work.

“He did a fine job,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He’s throwing it better this year than he did last year.”

Wilson gave up one hit in the first inning, and then retired 17 batters in a row. He allowed no base runners in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Shane Culpepper reached second on an error at third base, but was tagged out by third baseman Blake Perry in a rundown after being picked off. Wilson got the next batter to fly out to centerfield to make it five-straight 1-2-3 innings.

The Vipers got some offense going in the top of the seventh, but it was too little too late. Two hits, combined with a walk and a hit batter, gave Little Rock its only two runs of the game, still far short of Gwatney’s six runs.

Jacksonville opened the bottom of the third inning with six-straight base hits, including a double by first baseman Greg Jones. The first four batters scored, making it 4-0, a score that lasted until the bottom of the sixth inning.

Catcher Troy Allen was hit by a pitch with one out to start a two-run rally for Gwatney. Leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair doubled over the head of the Vipers’ left-fielder to drive in Allen’s courtesy runner Courtland McDonald. Ryan Mallison walked and Kaleb Reeves was hit by a pitch to load the bases. St. Clair scored on a wild pitch, leaving two runners in scoring position with one out, but Jacksonville couldn’t get another run across the plate.

Jacksonville also had runners at second and third with no outs in the fifth inning and failed to produce any runs.

St. Clair went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and a run batted in to lead Jacksonville offensively. Jones went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Reeves also went 2 for 3 for the Chevy Boys. Mallison, Perry and Wilson got one base hit apiece to round out Jacksonville’s 10 hits in the game.

“We hadn’t played any real tough teams yet, but considering how many young kids I have, they’ve done pretty well,” Hickingbotham said. “I only have four players that are senior age, the rest are on the junior team too and I’ve had to move them up. So just about all the teams we’re going to play on the senior schedule are going to be much older teams.”

Jacksonville was back in action on Friday in a game that finished after deadlines. Bracket play starts today at noon and finishes with the tournament championship game at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.