Friday, June 05, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney Blue rallies for win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet–Blue junior American Legion team picked up its first win of the season Thursday, beating the Conway Cougars 8-4 in the first round of the Jacksonville Invitational Tournament at Dupree Park. The game lasted just four and a half innings before the 1:50-minute time limit put a halt to the action.

Ean Collie threw four-and-two-thirds innings, giving up just two hits and one earned run while striking out seven and walking four.

Jacksonville fell behind early, trailing 3-0 after one-and-a-half innings. Conway’s two hits and four walks were supplemented by five Jacksonville errors, but Collie pulled a K out of his bag at opportune times.

Jacksonville scored one run in the bottom of the second, the first of eight unanswered over the next three innings that put the home team in control.

The Chevy Boys (1-3) went down in order in only three pitches in the first inning, but there was reason for optimism. Kameron Whitmore, Tyson Flowers and Caden Sample each drilled the first pitch they saw, but two went right to the left fielder and one to center field without either fielder having to move more than a couple of steps.

Conway scored one run in the top of the first on two errors and a base hit, and got two more in the second on two more errors and two walks.

Collie got Jacksonville’s first rally going when he took a pitch off the shoulder to lead off the home half of the second. His courtesy runner Robert Johnson moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by D.J. Sturgis and to third on a groundout to first by Isaiah Cain. He then scored when catcher Ryan Rosel singled to left field.

Collie got a groundout to second base to start the third inning, then went walk, strikeout, walk, strikeout to end the frame.

Gwatney took the lead in the home half.

Deboious Cobbs got things started when Cougar first baseman David Beck couldn’t handle a throw from shortstop. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Whitmore and scored on a base hit to left field by Flowers.

Sample moved Flowers to second with a sacrifice back to the pitcher. Collie hit an infield single to shortstop, leaving runners on first and third. Flowers then scored on a passed ball while Johnson moved to second with the scored tied 3-3. Sturgis then grounded to shortstop, but the throw to first was in the dirt, allowing Johnson to score on the play and giving Jacksonville its first lead of the game.

The Cougars got something going in the top of the fourth when a pair of errors put runners on the corners with no outs. But Rosel threw one runner out trying to steal and Collie called up a pair of strikeouts to get out of the jam.

Rosel then started the bottom of the fourth with a hard grounder right over third base for a base hit. Quentin Stallard was hit by a pitch and Cobbs got an field single to second base to load the bases.

Whitmore walked to drive in Rosel’s courtesy runner Kylan Kendall, and Flowers hit an RBI single to put Gwatney up 6-3. After a strikeout, Collie drew an RBI walk that scored Cobbs, and Whitmore scored on a wild pitch to cap Jacksonville’s scoring.

Conway got a leadoff single to right field in the top of the fifth. The throw-in sailed over the entire infield and left the runner standing on third with no outs. Collie then got Beck to pop up to first base and struck out Aaron Hogue before yielding to A.J. Jackson.

The runner scored on a wild pitch and after a walk, Jackson got Nathan Kealing to groundout to end the game.

Flowers went 2 for 3 with two RBIs while Rose went 2 for 2 with one run batted in.