Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Rockets roll them up on Jacksonville

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Red Devil baseball team fell to the Catholic High Rockets 7-1 Monday afternoon in the final regular-season game before for the 5A state tournament.

Jacksonville (22-5) could not get going offensively, falling prey to three Catholic (20-7) double plays in losing to the Rockets.

“That one’s over,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows. “Looking forward to Thursday. That’s what we’re going to focus on – the state tournament.”

Jacksonville is the No. 2 seed from the 5A-Central and will face 5A-South three seed Hot Springs Lakeside in the first round of state at Dupree Park. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Red Devils went quietly in the first as they hit in the visitor half of the inning. Leadoff batter Courtland McDonald ground out to the first baseman, Brandon Hickingbotham to the second baseman, and Kaleb Reeves struck out.

In the home half of the inning, the Rockets picked up two runs to take the 2-0 lead. Leadoff Zach Pinter legged out an infield hit, and Zach Sokora walked. After a strikeout by Red Devil pitcher James Tucker, Joseph Myers doubled to right center, scoring Pinter.

Tucker got another strikeout for out two, but then hit two consecutive batters, the last with the bases loaded to force in a run. Jonathan Lanehart then grounded out to first baseman Hickingbotham to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

In the top of the second, Jacksonville’s Greg Jones reached base to lead off the inning, but Tucker hit into a double play. Ryan Mallison grounded out to first, and the Red Devils went quickly again.

Catholic added a run in its half of the frame. Tucker had recorded his third strikeout, and then Pinter singled to left. Tucker left the mound to play first base, and Hickingbotham took over the pitching duties. After a sacrifice bunt moved Pinter to second, he scored on a double off the center field fence by William Hancock for a 3-0 Rocket advantage.

Pinter took over as pitcher for Catholic, and Derek St. Clair greeted him with a single up the middle. Another double play cleared the bases, but senior Deaundray Harris followed with a double to the center field fence. He was left stranded, though, as McDonald struck out.

The lead became 4-0 in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run by Harper Vondran.

Another new Rocket pitcher, Christian Goshen issued back-to-back walks to Jacksonville batters in the fourth inning, but the third double play by the Catholic High defense erased the damage.

In the bottom of the frame, the Rockets added two additional runs on three hits, and then pinch hitter Lance Harville-Thomas hit the ball over the fence in center in the home half of the fifth for a 7-0 lead.

Jacksonville had only single hits in the fifth and sixth by seniors Blake Perry and Kaleb Reeves.

In the seventh, LaDarrious Perry came in to lead off and try to get something going for Jacksonville. He was hit by a pitch and was followed by a single by Mallison. After a line-drive out by St. Clair, Blake Perry hit the gap in right-center, but was thrown out going for second. LaDarrious Perry scored and Mallison moved to third, but that was all the Red Devils could do as Harris struck out to end the game with a final score of 7-1.

St. Clair had gone to the mound to pitch in the fifth for Jacksonville and struck out three batters in one and two-thirds innings, and Brandon Hawkins finished the game for the Red Devils.

Blake Perry was 2 for 3 in the game to lead Jacksonville in hits.