Wednesday, April 01, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil pitching shuts out Badgers

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils followed a 2-2 performance at the Central Arkansas Invitational over the weekend with a 5A-Central doubleheader sweep of Beebe on Monday. The Red Devils’ pitching has been on a tear since dropping a 12-9 decision to CAI host and champion Catholic High, giving up one base hit in three games. Caleb McMunn no-hit Conway in the third-place game at the CAI but still took a 3-0 loss.

On Monday, Derek St. Clair threw a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory at home against Beebe, and James Tucker threw a six-inning no-hitter against the Badgers in a 12-0 win.

In game one on Monday, Jacksonville got just enough off Beebe ace Angus Denton to pick up the victory. The first run came in the first inning. Ryan Mallison reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a base hit by Greg Jones.

Jacksonville got at least one hit in every inning but the sixth, including two in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize again until the fifth, when three-straight one-out singles loaded the bases for Jones, who bunted to squeeze in the game’s final run.

Beebe’s John Finley doubled to left field in the fourth inning for the Badgers’ only hit. St. Clair struck out 12, walked three and hit one batter in seven innings of work.

Denton gave up seven hits while striking out five and walking none.

In game two, Beebe pitcher Eric Brown gave up a leadoff triple to Courtland McDonald to start the game. He scored on the next at-bat when Mallison grounded out to second base, but Brown gave up just two more hits over the next three innings before giving up two runs in the fourth.

Tucker hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a base hit by St. Clair. After St. Clair stole second, Brandon Hickingbotham got a two-RBI base hit to make it 3-0.

The Red Devils tacked on five more runs to blow the game open in the fifth, and did it on just one base hit. Mallison hit a one-out double to straightaway center field to start the rally. McMunn then reached on a fielder’s choice at third that failed to get Mallison, leaving runners safe on the corners. Greg Jones walked to load the bases and Tucker walked to drive in a run. St. Clair then hit a ball to left field that was mishandled, clearing the bases and leaving St. Clair safe at third.

Jacksonville ended the game early in the sixth inning when Beebe pitching fell apart and couldn’t find the strike zone. Jacksonville scored four more runs on one base hit, four walks and two hit batters.

Tucker’s no-hitter came with eight strikeouts and one walk, which came with two outs in the final inning, spoiling a perfect game.

Despite the 12 runs in game two on Monday, Jacksonville’s hitting hasn’t been as good as coach Larry Burrows would like to see.

“I thought we swung fairly well against Denton,” Burrows said. “They’re capable of beating anybody with him on the mound. The other games I haven’t liked. I don’t think we’ve hit like we’re capable. I think the Conway game was partly just a matter of seven games in about eight days. But he doesn’t even pitch for them. They threw their third baseman at us and we didn’t hit at all.”

Jacksonville (5-5, 2-0) hit the ball hard and often in its first three games of the CAI, beating Alma 14-2, North Little Rock 14-2 and losing 12-9 to Catholic after jumping out to a 7-0 lead.

Laderrious Perry hit two home runs against Catholic – one to the power alley in left-center field and another to straightaway center.

Jacksonville got 15 base hits in the win over North Little Rock, including five doubles. Mallison went 3 for 4 with a double and five RBIs. Hickingbotham went 3 for 3 while D.J. Scott, Perry and McDonald all got multiple base hits.

In the third-place game, McMunn did his best Nuke Laloosh impression in pitching the no-hitter. He struck out eight Wampus Cats, but also walked six and threw numerous wild pitches. Conway’s first two runs came in the second inning when McMunn struck out the side. He also walked two, threw two wild pitches and Jacksonville committed a fielding error that allowed two runners to score.

The final run came after a walk and two wild pitches left a runner at third. A sacrifice grounder scored the run to set the final margin.

Beebe hosts Little Rock Christian Academy in a nonconference game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Jacksonville plays North Little Rock again at 5 p.m. today at Dupree Park.