Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney wins one at tourney

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion program will field three teams this summer, two junior teams and a senior team. Both junior teams took part in the annual Memorial Day tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock over the weekend.

It was supposed to be a three-game guarantee with four pools of four teams each playing a round robin, and pool winners playing a single elimination tournament on Monday. Torrential rain called a halt to the action Sunday evening.

The Jacksonville-Cardinal junior team went 1-1 in two competitive games while the Jacksonville-Blue team went 0-3.

The Cardinal team opened the tournament with come-from-behind win over Beebe-White on Saturday, and then fell short in a comeback attempt against Benton Sportshop, losing 8-5 on Sunday.

Gwatney-Cardinal fell behind Beebe 3-0 in the first inning and gave up another run in the top of the fourth, but scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth. After an initial out on the first at-bat, Jacksonville got the next 10 batters on base and scored seven runs before recording two outs in order.

The rally started with a one-out single by Trent Toney. A hit batter was followed by three-straight walks that made it 4-2. Devin Dodson then doubled to center field to drive in three more runs and give Jacksonville the lead. After another hit batter, back-to-back singles by Foster Rash and Gabe Helsley gave Jacksonville a 7-4 lead.

Beebe posted a run in the fifth, but the 110-minute time limit ran out, securing the win for Jacksonville.

Against Benton, which had three teams in the tournament, the Sportshop team that’s made up primarily of Bauxite high school players, scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and held off another Jacksonville rally to preserve the win.

Jacksonville scored one run in the third inning, two runs in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth, but the time limit eliminated the last inning and any chance to complete the comeback.

In the third inning, nine-hole hitter Jonathan Smith drew a one-out walk and scored on a hit by leadoff hitter Caleb Smith.

In the fifth inning, Caleb Smith started the rally with a leadoff single, followed by an RBI base hit by Toney. Toney later scored on a wild pitch.

In the fifth, Helsley and Joseph Cummings drew leadoff walks and Peyton Williams singled to drive in the two base runners.

“They fell behind in both games but they kept playing hard,” said Jacksonville-Cardinal coach Marvin Helsley. “We were able to come back and get us a win against Beebe, and fought hard to get back in it against Benton. We just need to start better.”

The Jacksonville-Blue team lost its opener 7-3 to Beebe-Red on Friday. It suffered a no-hit loss on Saturday against the Benton Sportshop team made up of Benton-Harmony Grove’s high school team, then lost 11-1 to Cabot on Sunday.

The last game consisted of several walks and errors and very few earned runs.

“They’re struggling but it’s not all their fault,” said Jacksonville program director Bob Hickingbotham. “There’s kids from four different schools out there and they haven’t had any time to practice together and play with each other. There are some kids out here that didn’t get to play much on the high school team, and they just need practice. They’re going to get better.”