Saturday, May 10, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> JHS gets past PA antics, sweeps

Leader sports editor

A number of antics and ludicrous disputes by Pulaski Academy coach Billy Adams didn’t distract the Jacksonville baseball team from its task on Tuesday. Adams disputed everything from dropped third strikes, to running in or out of baselines to the lines drawn for the batter’s box. It was all a big display, but it was all for naught as the Red Devils swept the Bruins 2-1 and 11-2 at Dupree Park to lock up a share of the 5A-Central championship and No. 2 seed in the state tournament they will host next week.

“We just don’t pay any attention to it,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows of Adams’ arguments. “We tell them from the beginning, you signed up to play baseball and that’s all you need to worry about. We don’t get involved in all that stuff. And this team does a good job of ignoring it.”

A pair of home runs accounted for all the scoring in game one. Courtland McDonald hit a two-run shot in the third inning that scored Blake Perry, who had led off with a single.

Pulaski Academy’s Razorback signee Blake Wiggins then hit a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning.

Bruin pitcher Colin Castleberry gave up leadoff base hits in the fourth and fifth innings, but worked out of the trouble. He then struck out the side to complete his work in the sixth.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair put the Bruins down in order in the fifth and sixth, but had to battle through some adversity to hold off the tying run in the seventh inning. Chris Hays drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. He then made it to third on a pitch in the dirt with one out.

Castleberry hit a hard ground ball to first base where Jacksonville’s Deaundray Harris made a great play, making the stop and looking Hays back to third base before backpedaling to the bag for the out.

St. Clair got Kyle Kollander into a 0-2 hole before the right fielder fought off three foul balls. Facing a 1-2 count, Kollander swung and missed a bender that hit catcher Greg Jones’ motionless glove in the middle of the strike zone for the out.

That’s when Adams made his second major scene. He rushed the plate from the third-base coaches’ box and argued that the ball hit the ground, and that Kollander should be safe at first and Hay’s run count.

The argument, while vocal and vehement, didn’t last long. Amidst Adams’ protest and jeers and insults from the visitors’ side of the bleachers, the umpire simply said, “The game’s over coach,” before leaving the field.

Adams’ first display of nonsense took place after Brandon Hickingbotham was hit by a pitch in the third inning. Adams argued that Hickingbotham was out of the batter’s box and standing over the plate, and demanded the boxes be redrawn, but to no avail.

Jacksonville got just five hits off Castleberry, with Perry going 2 for 2. The Bruin hurler had only two strikeouts before the sixth inning to finish with five Ks and no walks.

St. Clair gave up just three hits, two to Wiggins, while walking two and striking out six.

Jacksonville got on the board first in game two as well. Playing as the visiting team, McDonald led the game off with a single to center field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Perry.

Kaleb Reeves then singled to put runners on the corner and Jones hit a deep fly ball to center field to score McDonald.

McDonald scored again in the third inning after a leadoff double down the right field line. Three batters later, Jones singled to center field to again drive in McDonald.

James Tucker then hit a towering shot that bounced off the fence in left field just beneath the top rail.

Jones’ courtesy runner Tyson Flowers tried to score all the way from first base, but was thrown out at home by a perfect relay throw by Hays that hit Wiggins’ mitt right in front of the plate to end the inning.

Adams’ next and last great debate came in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Wiggins singled down the left field line and stole second and third before cleanup hitter Merritt Osmond walked to put runners on the corners. Adams called for the bluff stolen base by Osmond.

Jones calmly walked out from behind the plate, waiting to see which way Osmond would commit. The runner finally broke for second base. As Jones threw to second, Wiggins took off for home.

Ryan Mallison received Jones’ throw and attempted to tag Osmond, but the lanky six-and-a-half footer ran around Mallison towards right field and was called out for leaving the base path to end the inning.

That led to Adams’ arguing with the field umpire for the duration of the inning break until he was threatened with ejection.

There was little reason for dispute for very much longer.

The Red Devils made it 4-0 in the top of the fourth. Mallison hit a leadoff single to right field, and moved to second base when pitcher Tony Chacko’s pickoff throw to first base caught Osmond off guard and rolled to the fence. It was the first of five major blunders by the crumbling Bruins.

Mallison moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an infield single by Laderrious Perry, who beat out a high bouncer down the third baseline.

PA got one back after leadoff hits by Hays and Cayden Haas was followed by a flyout and sacrifice grounder to second base by Kollander that scored Hays in the bottom of the fourth.

Jacksonville then scored five in the fifth and two more in the sixth to make it 11-1 and end any hopes of a Bruin comeback.

Four base hits and two errors led to the fifth-inning rally. St. Clair got a leadoff single and reached second on another errant pickoff throw by Chacko. Harris reached on a bunt single and St. Clair scored on a sacrifice grounder by Laderrious Perry.

McDonald singled in a run before the first out was recorded. Reeves hit a grounder to second base that turned into an error. Jones walked and Tucker again doubled to left field to drive in two more runs.

Harris and Laderrious Perry led off the sixth inning with consecutive singles before McDonald finally made an out with a sacrifice grounder to first base.

Blake Perry was in position to drive in some more runs, but two wild pitches by reliever Hays scored Harris and Laderrious Perry. It was a bad break for Blake Perry, whose subsequent single would have been two more RBIs for the senior infielder.

The Bruins scored one run in the bottom of the seventh inning due to an error in center field to set the final margin.

Jacksonville, 22-4, added an 8-7 win over Greenbrier on Thursday in Faulkner County. The Red Devils scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take the lead. Sophomore Brandon Hawkins took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and retired the Panthers in order to get the save.

Reeves pitched the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to get the win on the mound.

Tucker got a two-out, two-RBI double for the game-winning base hit.

Jacksonville will travel to Little Rock to play Catholic at Lamar Porter Field on Monday before the state tournament begins Thursday at Dupree Park.