Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney gets forfeit in semis

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior American Legion team went 3-1 through the first four days of the state tournament in Cabot to advance to the state title game against the Bryant Black Sox. That game took place Tuesday evening after Leader deadlines, with the winner taking a No. 1 seed into the five-state regional that begins Friday in Bryant.

Jacksonville (30-4) started and ended the first three days with 6-3 victories over the Little Rock Cobras, but Monday’s game was anything but typical.

The Cobras’ coach pulled his team off the field after one batter in the bottom of the fourth inning, citing verbal abuse from a Jacksonville fan.

Gwatney centerfielder Courtland McDonald led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at bat. He had also walked earlier in the game. After taking the pitch in the shoulder in the fourth, a Jacksonville fan yelled “They don’t want you to hit son.” He had earlier been confronted by a Cobras fan and an assistant coach for yelling “They can’t handle this pressure,” as Jacksonville began to mount a comeback from an earlierdeficit in the second inning.

The home plate umpire did not deem the Jacksonville fan’s comments abusive, and declined to take any action. When the Cobras coach refused to send his team back out onto the field, the umpire declared the game a forfeit victory for Jacksonville.

Little Rock had struggled mightily on the mound the entire game. When McDonald was hit to start the fourth inning, it was the 10th free base issued by Cobra pitching in the game. Jacksonville had just three base hits, but patience at the plate made those hits productive ones.

It wasn’t the only time in the tournament McDonald was involved in the game’s last play, only the other time was much more exciting. Jacksonville faced Cabot in the semifinal of the winners’ bracket in a game scheduled for Saturday’s closing game. Lightning forced a stoppage after one inning, and the game was resumed on Sunday morning.

Cabot’s Adam Hicks and Jacksonville’s Blake Perry threw seven innings of outstanding baseball. Each pitcher had a shutout intact after six innings.

Perry sat Cabot down in order in the top of the seventh, then led off the bottom of the seventh with Jacksonville’s fourth hit of the game. Greg Jones then roped a line drive to centerfield, but Lee Sullivan made a nice running catch for the first out.

McDonald stepped to the plate and ripped a 1-0 pitch into the power alley in right-centerfield for an RBI, walk-off triple.

McDonald and Perry combined for four of Jacksonville’s five hits, with Derek St. Clair accounting for the other. Sullivan led Cabot offensively with two hits in three at bats. Dylan Bowers, Brandon Jones, Jonathan Latture and Tyler Gilbert each getting one hit apiece.

Hicks struck out four while Perry fanned three, and neither pitcher walked anyone.

Jacksonville’s only loss was a 4-2 decision to Bryant in the final of the winners’ bracket on Sunday night. The Black Sox (33-1) knocked St. Clair around for 10 base hits, but couldn’t entirely put Jacksonville away until the final inning. That’s when Jacksonville managed its two runs, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

The Chevy Boys begin play in the five-state regional at 3:15 on Friday in Bryant.