Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney drops game behind second

Leader sports editor

After opening its Summer Classic senior American Legion tournament with a win, Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet squad lost its last two games at Dupree Park Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Jacksonville gave up six runs in the top of the first inning en route to a 9-3 loss to tournament champion Conway. On Sunday, three Chevy Boys’ errors blew two late leads in a 9-8 loss to Benton.

In Saturday’s game, Conway’s first-inning rally included three base hits, and was aided by two walks and an error. Jacksonville scored one run in the third inning when D.J. Scott got a leadoff base hit, followed two batters later by an RBI single to left by Laderrious Perry. Jacksonville scored two more in the fourth on another base hit by Perry, two walks and a passed ball.

Conway scored its next three runs in the sixth on two hit batters, two walks and a base hit.

While walks and hit batters were the main culprits in Saturday’s loss, errors led directly to the loss on Sunday. Jacksonville took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Colton Goodman got a one-out base hit, which Perry and Caleb McMunn followed with back-to-back walks that loaded the bases. Chris Penn hit a fly ball to center field that scored Goodman. Deaundray Harris and Peyton Traywick then hit back-to-back line drives to center field to score Perry and McMunn.

But Jacksonville committed a pair of two-out errors that led to six unearned Benton runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, a pop-up to shallow right-center field dropped to the ground when Penn and Harris’ gloves collided just as the ball reached them. That allowed three runs to score and tie the game. Two base hits followed before another error gave up another run and a 6-3 Benton lead.

Jacksonville came back in the top of the sixth. Ryan Mallison drew a one-out walk and Brandon Hickingbotham singled to right field. Goodman struck out for the second out, but Perry hammered a towering three-run homer over the wall in left-center field to tie the game.

After Goodman held Benton scoreless in the sixth inning, Jacksonville reclaimed the lead with two runs in the top of the seventh. Penn started the rally with a leadoff single before Harris struck out. Courtland McDonald then ripped a line drive triple to the base of the wall in straightaway center to score Penn. He then scored on a sacrifice grounder by Scott that gave Gwatney Chevrolet an 8-6 lead.

But the bottom of the seventh saw another two-out error on another pop-up past second base that led to the Benton victory. This time, instead of two people trying to catch the ball, no one did, as Penn and Scott stopped and looked at each other as the ball landed between them.

“Anybody could’ve caught both of them,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “The first one should’ve been the right fielder’s ball but he waited too long to call it. The second one probably should’ve been second base, but after the first one he wasn’t sure. They just have to learn to talk out there. It could’ve been avoided if they’d just talk. We shouldn’t have lost that game.”

For the tournament, Perry went 5 for 8 with three walks and was hit once. He finished with a double, a home run and five RBIs.

Jacksonville hosted Cabot on Tuesday and will host Conway on Thursday.

Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.