Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SPORT STORY >> Gwatney stays alive with shutout win over Conway

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – The Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team got its second win of the Zone 1 tournament Monday at Hendrix College in Conway, beating the Conway Cougars 9-0 and advancing to the semifinals. It was Jacksonville’s first win on the field.

The Chevy Boys won their first-round game by forfeit when Russellville did not have the required minimum of 12 players show up for their scheduled 9:30 a.m. game on Saturday.

After a 4-1 loss to Cabot on Sunday, Jacksonville blew open a 1-0 game in the seventh inning by posting eight more runs.

It seemed to be a matter of time before Jacksonville would have such an inning. Gwatney pitcher Derek St. Clair kept Conway off balance the entire game, while Jacksonville was on the brink of several big innings before the seventh, but were not able to capitalize on those opportunities.

The Chevy Boys loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning and failed to score. Four of their five batters reached base in the second inning but only one run scored. That inning included one strikeout, one runner picked off at first and another thrown out at home trying to score from second base.

In the third inning, the first two runners reached base and were in scoring position with one out. There was a fruitless triple to the wall in left-center field by Greg Jones in the fifth. Jacksonville went three up, three down in the sixth before finally blowing it open in the seventh.

It started with the always-ominous leadoff walk of the nine-hole hitter. D.J. Scott drew that walk and reached second on a base hit to right field by Courtland McDonald. Ryan Mallison then put down a sacrifice bunt, but everyone was safe when the first baseman dropped the throw.

Blake Perry hit a fly ball to right field deep enough for Scott to score from third. Jones then singled to center field to drive in the remaining two base runners. St. Clair then singled to left. He was picked off by Conway pitcher Shawn Schichtl, but was safe at second on another dropped ball. James Tucker then bunted down the third baseline, and again everyone was left safe on an errant throw that also allowed Jones to score.

Laderrious Perry then drew a walk to load the bases again.

Brandon Hickingbotham struck out swinging at a wild pitch that scored St. Clair. Scott drew another walk in his second at-bat of the inning to again load the bases. McDonald hit a hard grounder to third base where a half-hearted effort to field the ball was unsuccessful, allowing two more runs to score and leaving Scott and McDonald safe in scoring position. Mallison walked to load the bases again and Blake Perry was hit by a pitch to drive in the final run of the game.

Jacksonville got just six base hits with Jones’ two leading the way. The Chevy Boys were helped by seven walks, six Conway errors and three hit batters.

Conway got seven base hits, six off of St. Clair in eight innings of work. He also struck out six and walked three. Hickingbotham pitched the ninth inning. He gave up a leadoff single and an E6 to put two runners on with no outs, but got two groundouts and finished it off with a strikeout to preserve the shutout.

Jacksonville faced Fort Smith-Kerwins at 7 p.m. Tuesday after deadlines. Kerwins entered that game 3-0 in the tournament but it’s an elimination game for Jacksonville. A win means a date with the winner of Cabot-North Little Rock on Wednesday. Look for details of those games and the rest of the tournament in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.