Tuesday, June 17, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney wins four straight

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion baseball team picked up a pair of doubleheader sweeps on Saturday and Monday. The Jacksonville squad went on the road for two 6-2 wins over Beebe’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts team on Saturday. On Monday, the Chevy Boys were back home at Dupree Park for wins of 11-1 and 13-4 over Sylvan Hills.

In game one on Saturday, Jacksonville got two runs in the second and four in the top of the third for a 6-0 lead before Beebe got on the board in the bottom of the third. The O’Reilly team added another run in the fourth to set the final margin.

Jordan Wickershaw and Ean Collie walked to start the two-run second for Gwatney. With one out, leadoff hitter Caleb McMunn doubled to right-center field to drive in the two base runners.

Brandon Hickingbotham got things rolling for Gwatney in the third with a leadoff double. Javan Wakefield then walked and Colton Goodman doubled to right field for two RBIs. Tyler Montgomery followed that with an RBI single to score Goodman.

Montgomery scored three batters later on a two-out base hit by Wesley Williams that made it 6-0.

Beebe blew a prime opportunity for a rally in the bottom of the third, getting its first four batters on base, but only scoring one run. Dawson Burge and Blaine Burge each drew walks to start things off. The runners advanced on a wild pitch, but Dawson Burge was thrown out at home on a grounder to third base by Carson McNeil. Blaine Burge was also thrown out on the base paths, but a double by Jake Majors scored McNeil for Beebe’s first run.

In the fourth inning, Ty Searcy drew a leadoff walk, stole two bases and scored on a wild pitch.

In game two, Jacksonville’s Edward Johnson hit a one-out double in the top of the first inning, and scored on a two-out single by Joseph Cummings. The Gwatney Chevrolet squad made it 2-0 in the top of the second when Quentin Stallard reached on an error at shortstop, and scored after back-to-back singles by Kameron Whitmore and Caleb Smith.

Majors held Jacksonville in check on the mound over the next two innings, and O’Reilly’s tied it up with two runs in the bottom of the third. McNeil hit a leadoff single to center field before Majors flew out deep to right. Ethan Hicks walked and Searcy moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

With two outs, Dakota Faircloth doubled to the wall in center field to score both runners. But the momentum didn’t last as Jacksonville scored four in the top of the fourth on only two hits.

With one out, Smith got his second single to right before leadoff hitter Jayden Loving grounded out to second base for the second out. Johnson grounded to third, but the throw to first was wild, leaving everyone safe. Jonathan Smith was hit by relief pitcher Hunter Lawrence and Williams – hitting for Cummings – followed that by drawing a bases-loaded walk to score Caleb Smith.

Brandon Hawkins then hit a high, slow bouncer down the first baseline and reached safely, driving in another run. Payton Traywick then hit into another E5 that brought the final two runs home.

Beebe also dropped both ends of a doubleheader against Searcy on Monday, losing 8-2 in game one and 5-3 in game two. The losses drop the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts team to 1-7 overall, but Beebe coach Mike Lawrence is still optimistic about the team.

“Monday was the first game all season that we’ve had our whole team together,” said Lawrence. “It was 2-2 for several innings then they got a couple of critical hits and scored some runs. The second game didn’t count towards conference, so we just tried to get some kids in that haven’t played as much and put people in some different positions to get them some experience. I think we’re seeing steady improvement. There are a lot of fans coming out to our games and the kids thrive on that and it makes them want to get better.”

In Monday’s outing, Jacksonville jumped on Sylvan Hills 4-0 in the first inning with five base hits. McMunn got the rally started with a one-out double to center field, and scored on a single by Goodman. Montgomery walked and Goodman scored on a base hit by Hickingbotham that left runners on the corners.

Hickingbotham’s courtesy runner, Caleb Smith, and Montgomery pulled off a double steal that scored Montgomery. Wakefield then singled to again put runners on first and third. Jackson then sacrificed to second base to score Caleb Smith.

Gwatney added another run in the top of the second on three-straight singles by McMunn, Goodman and Montgomery.

Sylvan Hills scored in the top of the third when Marvin Butler hit a leadoff single to right field and stole second and third base. Tucker Price drew a one-out walk and Sylvan Hills tried its own double steal. The play scored Butler, but got Price caught in a rundown and tagged out by second baseman Tyson Flowers.

Jacksonville added two more in the bottom of the third. Collie hit a one-out single to right before a strikeout preceded a two-out rally that included three-straight singles by Flowers, McMunn and Goodman to make it 7-1.

Hickingbotham struck out the side in order in the fourth inning, setting up Jacksonville’s game-clinching, four-run fifth.

It started with a leadoff single by Hickingbotham, followed by a single by Wakefield. After Sylvan Hills pitcher Cameron Attabough struck out the next two batters, he hit Caden Sample and walked Flowers, with courtesy runner Caleb Smith scoring on a wild pitch in the process. McMunn then got his fourth base hit to score Wakefield, and Goodman followed with his fourth hit to drive in two more runs and end the game on the sportsmanship rule.

Hickingbotham went the distance on the mound, giving up two hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking three.

Sylvan Hills got off to a much better start in game two, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning, but three different Bruin pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone.

The Bruins’ Connor Beeching hit a one-out single to left field off starting pitcher Flowers. Butler was then hit by a pitch. Christian Hendrickson then hit a line-drive single to left field for an RBI. Cummings misplayed the bounce in the outfield, allowing Butler to also score on the play and leaving Hendrickson safe at third. He then scored when Flowers balked to give Sylvan Hills an early but brief 3-0 lead.

Jacksonville answered with six runs in the bottom of the same inning and never trailed again. The Chevy Boys got just two base hits in the inning and only one left the infield. Most of the runs were due to the four walks and three hit batters issued by Sylvan Hills pitching.

Sylvan Hills got one run back in the top of the second, but had an opportunity for more. Jason Neely hit a leadoff single and Dylan Petit was hit by a pitch. Waymond Bryant reached on a bunt that loaded the bases. Gwatney relief pitcher Dillon Morse then struck out the next batter and got Beeching to ground out to shortstop. That scored Neely, but Butler popped up to shortstop to end the threat.

Jacksonville then scored two more runs on two walks, an infield single and a Sylvan Hills error to make it 8-4. Gwatney then added five more in the fourth to set the final margin. Stallard – hitting for Flowers – was hit to start the inning before back-to-back outs were recorded by Butler in relief. Whitmore then singled to right field and Jonathan Smith walked to load the bases. Caleb Smith hit into an E6 that scored one run. Wickershaw then hit into an E8 that cleared the bases and made it 13-4.

Sylvan Hills had two more good opportunities to score, but base running blunders thwarted both threats. In the top of the fourth, Hendrickson sent an 0-2 pitch to the wall for a stand-up double, but failed to tag up when Ray Young hit a routine fly ball to center field and was doubled up at second. It happened again in the top of the fifth when Petit reached to lead things off, only to be thrown out at first after failing to tag on a pop up to shortstop.

The game ended on the time limit in the bottom of the fifth as Jacksonville had loaded the bases again with a single and two walks.

The four wins lift Jacksonville’s record to 10-7 while Sylvan Hills drops to 2-4.