Monday, July 08, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney rallies in seventh, beats Red

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior team escaped with a narrow victory over the rapidly improving Cabot Red team Tuesday at Dupree Park. Jacksonville saw a 7-1 lead after five innings turn into a 9-7 deficit by the middle of the seventh, but managed three runs in the bottom of the last inning to pull out the victory.

The Centennial Bank team pulled to within one run in the top of the sixth with a five-run rally, then took the lead with three runs in the top of the seventh. They were in good shape with Jacksonville’s seven through nine hitters due up, and things looked even better when Mike Havard struck out Josh Cook to start the inning.

Brandon Hopkins then singled and Tyson Flowers walked. That brought Jacksonville (18-2) back to the top of the order, when James Tucker tied the game by sending a 2-1 pitch to the wall in centerfield and driving in both base runners. Wesley Williams then reached on an error at first base and Payton Traywick was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Then, in anti-climactic fashion, A.J. Jackson walked in five pitches to score the game-winning run.

Jacksonville got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning when Greg Jones walked and Blake Perry hit a fly ball to centerfield that was misplayed.

Pitcher Brandon Hickingbotham got a three-run rally started for Gwatney in the second inning with a leadoff double to right-centerfield. Zac Watkins singled to drive him home and Donte Harris singled to score Watkins. After Flowers flew out to right field, an error at third base left Harris and D.J. Scott safe at second and third, and Ryan Mallison hit a sacrifice grounder to score Harris and make it 4-0.

Cabot Red (5-12) scored a run in the top of the third. Ethan Holland hit a leadoff single before Hickingbotham fanned the next two batters. Holland stole second base and was able to score on a two-out RBI single by Braden Jarnigan.

Jarnigan, who started on the mound and pitched three innings for Cabot, yielded to Havard in the fourth, but three more runs gave Jacksonville a 7-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. Harris and Flowers hit back-to-back singles to start the inning. Two batters later with one out, Mallison tripled down the line in right field for two more RBIs. He then scored on a single to centerfield by Jones.

Havard held Gwatney scoreless on just one hit through the fifth and sixth innings as Cabot Red mounted its rally.

It started with a leadoff triple by Jarnigan off Hickingbotham, who went the distance for Jacksonville. Wes Brown then singled to drive in one run. Kayde Ridgeway walked and Jarrett Pitchford doubled to drive in Brown, all before Jacksonville recorded an out. Lino Garcia singled with one out to score Ridgeway. Pitchford scored on a passed ball and Garcia scored on a sacrifice by Havard to make it 7-6.

In the top of the seventh, Jarnigan started things off with a single before Brown grounded out back to the mound. Hickingbotham then hit Ridgeway and Pitchford to load the bases. An error at shortstop scored one run and tied the game. A single to left by Garcia drove in Ridgeway and Pitchford and gave Cabot a 9-7 lead.

Hickingbotham gave up nine base hits but only three earned runs. He walked three and hit three while striking out six. Jacksonville scored just four earned runs while piling up eight base hits.

The Gwatney junior team will play its regular-season game at 2 p.m. today at Benton. Cabot Red also plays at home today against Morrilton.