Friday, July 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville wins Zone opener

Leader sportswriter

A big fifth inning for Jacksonville’s junior American Legion team helped catapult the Chevy Boys to a 6-2 win over the Sylvan Hills Bruins in the first round of the Junior American Legion Zone Tournament on Thursday at the Cabot Sports Complex.

Sylvan Hills scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning, but Jacksonville scored two in the third to take a 2-1 lead.

The Chevy Boys then put together a four-run inning in the fifth to push their lead to a comfortable 6-1 advantage.

Sylvan Hills’ extended high school baseball team’s summer season came to an end earlier in the week, and as a result, the Bruins were able to add a key player to their roster just in time for the Zone Tournament.

Hunter Heslep is the team’s new addition, and he got the start on the mound for Sylvan Hills in Thursday’s game. The Chevy Boys as a whole struggled early against Heslep, who gave up just one earned run in four innings of work.

“Today we saw a pitcher we’d never seen and we’ve played them three times,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “As long as it’s legal I don’t care. That’s what you’ve got to do. We played good. (James) Tucker pitched well. He had his ups and downs. He threw a lot of pitches because he got behind the hitters in the count to start with.

“If you don’t get ahead it takes a long time to get rid of one, and we didn’t hit the ball well. (Heslep) was throwing a lot of breaking stuff. We just didn’t hit him very well.”

Heslep was pulled early in the fifth after giving up a walk and a base hit. Jacob Riggs took over with runnerson first and second with no outs. A groundout by Courtland McDonald advanced Blake Perry and Greg Jones, Jacksonville’s two base runners, to second and third base.

LaDerrious Perry then came to the plate and laid down a squeeze bunt. Riggs charged toward the plate as Blake Perry ran home and grabbed the ball and quickly tossed it to catcher Brandon Carter in what looked to be plenty of time to get Blake Perry out, but the umpire ruled he was safe on the play, which was much to the displeasure of Bruins coach Matt Presson.

“I mean, I thought he was out,” Presson said after the game. “It was a bad call, but you can’t let that decide the rest of your game. After they got down 6-1 I think they kind of almost let that beat them.”

After Blake Perry’s run, the Chevy Boys scored three more runs in the inning to take the 6-1 lead.

“We had a couple of walks, then they string some hits together, and you get one bad break and they get four runs on you real quick. I mean, it was just one inning, one call, four runs, and that would’ve been out number two and next pitch it’s maybe still 2-1. He missed it, but still, you can’t let that decide the game.”

The Bruins set the final score in the bottom of the seventh. Dawson Heslep singled to start the inning. Xavier Iverson came in as Heslep’s courtesy runner. Iverson eventually advanced to third base and scored the game’s final run on a one-out ground ball to first base by Joseph Craft.

Tucker got the win on the mound for Jacksonville. He pitched all seven innings and gave up his only earned run in the seventh inning to Iverson. He gave up five walks and five hits and recorded a game-high six strikeouts.

D.J. Scott led Jacksonville at the plate, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs. McKenzie Seats was the only other player with multiple hits. He also went 2 for 3 to lead the Bruins.