Tuesday, June 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney juniors win big

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior and senior teams split a doubleheader at Sheridan on Monday. The junior Chevy Boys won 14-3 while the senior team lost 15-5 after a rough third inning.

The two teams have played a disparaging number of games, with the win lifting the junior team’s overall record to 4-6, while Monday’s loss was the season opener for the senior squad.

“It’s basically the first time the senior team has picked up a glove and a ball in more than a week, and it looked like it,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “I thought (pitcher James) Tucker was doing extremely well and then we let the bottom fall out of it in the third inning. Four or five mistakes all right there together and it just killed us. We couldn’t field a thing. We looked like a bunch of goats in a hailstorm out there.

“But really it’s all my fault. We haven’t had a chance to get them out there and practice. We’ve had 10 junior games already and they’ve just been waiting to get on the field.”

The miserable third inning on Monday left Jacksonville with an eight-run deficit, but the team rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth to cut Sheridan’s lead to three. But that was all the team would muster.

The Yellowjackets helped their visitors out by issuing free bases to the three of the first four batters of the fourth inning. Ryan Mallison walked before Deaundray Harris struck out swinging. Troy Allen was hit by a pitch and Donte Harris walked to load the bases and bring up leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair. He singled to drive in two runs and Blake Perry singled to drive home another. Perry was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Kaleb Reeves before Greg Jones and Laderrious Perry drew two more walks. St. Clair scored on a passed ball and Reeves scored on Laderrious Perry’s walk to cap the Chevy Boys’ run production.

The junior team scored eight runs in the top of the first inning to take quick command of their game. The big early lead also gave junior coach Barry Hickingbotham a chance to play all 24 players that make up the current junior roster.

American Legion rules dictate that a team can certify a maximum of 18 players by the June 15 deadline, so the father-son coaching duo relishes the opportunity to evaluate as many players as they can as much as they can.

“We’ve been fortunate so far in how much we’ve been able to play everybody,” Bob Hickingbotham said. “We got to split into two teams at the North Little Rock tournament and we’ve run out to big leads in two other games. Then we had a doubleheader where everyone got to play.”

No one got to bat more than twice, but Cayden Sample, A.J. Jackson and Jordan Wickersham all went 2 for 2 for the junior Chevy Boys.

Ean Collie started on the mound and got the win. Payton Traywick and Dillon Morse pitched well in relief, though the margin was too large for Morse to officially get a save.

Both teams played at Cabot on Tuesday, and the Gwatney Chevrolet Junior Invitational Tournament begins at 5:30 p.m. today at Dupree Park. Benton Blue faces Conway to start the tournament and Cabot Red faces Sheridan at 7:45.

Beebe plays Searcy at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Jacksonville faces Cabot Red immediately after. Two more games are set for Friday with six games scheduled for Saturday starting at 9 a.m. The semifinals and championship game will be held Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m.

The senior team gets back to action on Monday at Benton.