Friday, March 21, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils win fourth in a row at Burns Park

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils moved to 4-2 with a pair of home wins on Wednesday and then a 3-0 victory against North Little Rock on Thursday at Burns Park.

Not only did Jacksonville win its fourth-consecutive game after starting 0-2, it also tied last season’s extra-base hit total.

“It took us 30 games to get 24 extra-base hits last year, this year we’ve done it in six,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “They’re just growing up. Most of these juniors have been starting since they were freshmen.”

Playing a day after it was originally scheduled, the Red Devils opened conference play in the 5A-Central on Wednesday by hammering Helena-West Helena Central 18-0 and 16-0 in a doubleheader.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair threw all three innings, facing just nine batters andstriking out all of them. A short game was apparent in the very early going. After St. Clair sat down the first three Cougars, Jacksonville’s first two batters walked on eight pitches. Kaleb Reeves was then hit by the first pitch he saw to load the bases.

Cleanup hitter Greg Jones saw the first strike thrown in the bottom of the first, and roped it to the wall in center field for a three-run double. Laderrious Perry hit a hard grounder to shortstop that was misplayed. Jones scored and Perry made it to second on the play, but Perry was thrown out during the next at bat trying to steal third.

Ryan Mallison walked and Blake Perry was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out. James Tucker then singled to score Mallison for the final run of the inning.

HWHC pitcher KeShawn Simpson settled down and struck out the next two batters to stop the Red Devil run.

But things got worse for him in Jacksonville’s second and final at bat. It started with a third-straight strikeout, but the catcher didn’t hold onto the ball and made a bad throw to first base, leaving St. Clair safe.

Reeves was hit again and Jones reached on another E6. Laderrious Perry flew out to deep center field to score St. Clair. Mallison and Blake Perry followed with RBI singles to make it 8-0.

Tucker hit what should have been a routine fly ball to centerfield that was dropped, and Dante Harris doubled to the wall in left-center to drive in two more runs.

Courtland McDonald also doubled and St. Clair reached on another error, this time in left field, the first of two in a row. Jones grounded out to second base after Reeves reached on the second E7 for the first out of the inning. Laderrious Perry singled and Mallison doubled to make it 15-0.

Blake Perry then hit a shot off the scoreboard in left field for a two-RBI round tripper.

Tucker walked on four pitches and ended up scoring on passed balls and wild pitches before the next at bat ended. That run set the final margin.

Game two was just more of the same as the Red Devils piled up nine base hits to go with a series of Cougar errors. Blake Perry faced just 10 batters in three innings of work to earn the victory.

In Thursday’s outing against the defending 7A/6A East champion Wildcats, Tucker found himself in a pitching duel with North Little Rock’s Ty Hauser. The game remained scoreless until Hauser left the mound after five innings of work.

Jacksonville posted all three runs in the sixth inning, starting the rally with a single by McDonald. Reeves and Jones then singled, but the rally was almost put to a halt on the next at bat. With the bases loaded, Laderrious Perry hit a hard grounder back to the pitcher for a 1-2-3 double play that left runners at second and third. Mallison then doubled to right-center field to score Reeves and Jones. Mallison advanced to third on the throw home, and scored on a passed ball to set the final margin.

Jacksonville got eight base hits with Reeves going 3 for 4 with a triple. Mallison got two hits while McDonald, Jones and Brandon Hickingbotham got one hit apiece. Tucker threw six innings, giving up three hits while striking out four and walking none. St. Clair took the mound for the seventh inning. He gave up a leadoff single before striking out the side.

Reeves has been red hot so far this season. He is now 11 for 15 with three triples and a home run.