Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> O’Reilly’s battles to the end

Leader sports editor

Beebe’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Junior American Legion team bowed out of the Zone 5 tournament with a 7-4 loss to Searcy on Monday, but closed the season playing its best baseball.

In the first round, Beebe led Jacksonville for four innings before losing 9-4. In the losers’ bracket, it hammered Cabot White 11-1 before giving away a 7-4 loss to Searcy.

The O’Reilly’s squad out-hit its opponent in all three games. Runners left on base played a big role in the loss to Jacksonville, as well as a monster game at the plate by Gwatney’s Colton Goodman, and errors were the clear culprit in the loss to Searcy.

“We missed a few opportunities but I think we were playing our best of the summer right here at the end,” said Beebe coach Michael Lawrence. “We’re definitely hitting the ball better than we have all summer. They came here and competed. I’m pretty proud of them.”

Beebe, 4-11, got 10 hits to Jacksonville’s nine in the first-round loss on Saturday. Beebe jumped out to a 3-0 lead until Jacksonville scored two in the bottom of the third. Gwatney then scored four in the bottom of the fourth and never trailed again.

Alec Matlock got things rolling in the second inning with a leadoff single, followed by back-to-back walks by Blaine Burge and Corey Rogers to load the bases. Andrew Malzhon then singled to score Matlock. But with no outs and the bases still loaded, Beebe failed to get another run.

John Finley led off the third inning with a single. He stole second base and reached third on a balk by pitcher Brandon Hawkins. Two batters later, Carson McNeil singled to score Finley. Burge and Rogers walked consecutively again to load the bases, and again Malzhon hit an RBI single to make it 3-0.

Jacksonville, 12-14, got on the board when Jordan Wickersham drew a leadoff walk. Wesley Williams sacrificed him to second base and A.J. Jackson reached on an error. Brandon Hickingbotham walked to load the bases and Goodman hit a two-RBI double to center field to make it 3-2.

The Gwatney Chevrolet team took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Wickersham singled with one out, followed by another error off Williams’ bat and a base hit by Jackson. Hickingbotham drew an RBI walk and Goodman hit another double that cleared the bases.

Beebe got one back in the top of the fifth when Matlock doubled and scored on a two-out single by Malzhon.

Jacksonville set the final margin in the sixth when Jackson drew a leadoff walk and scored two batters later on a two-run home run by Goodman. With two outs, Caleb McMunn singled and scored on an error off the bat of Javon Wakefield.

Malzhon finished the game going 3 for 4 with three RBIs for Beebe. Goodman went 3 for 3 with a walk, two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.

Hickingbotham relieved Hawkins in the third inning and got the win on the mound.

Against Cabot White, O’Reilly’s got seven hits to five for Centennial Bank. Finley got the win on the mound, going all five innings while striking out five batters and walking just two.

McNeil got Beebe’s only hit in the first inning, but three walks and a Cabot error helped make it 3-0. After a scoreless second frame, Beebe added four in the third. Dawson Burge singled and scored on a double by Jake Majors. Matlock reached on an E4 and both runners scored on a base hit by Malzhon.

Each team added a run in the fourth, and Beebe put it away early with three in the fifth on just one hit. Three walks and a hit batter set things up for Dawson Burge, who hit a two-RBI single to right field to set the final margin.