Tuesday, June 09, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney Red loses on error in seventh

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Red junior American Legion team made it to the bracket round of the Jacksonville tournament on Sunday, but an error in the bottom of the last inning cost the Red Chevy Boys a 4-3 decision against Benton-Sportshop.

To get to Sunday’s round, they went 2-1 to finish as runners-up in Pool A and earn the chance to play the winner of Pool B.

Jacksonville took the lead twice but never for very long. As runner-up, Gwatney had to play as the visiting team, and the game was scoreless until the top of the fifth inning, despite Jacksonville loading the bases with no outs in the fourth.

In the fifth inning, Jacksonville nine-hole hitter Chance Perry drew a leadoff walk before leadoff hitter Caleb Smith was hit by a pitch. Trent Toney sacrificed the runners into scoring position, but a strikeout threatened to make it another wasted opportunity for the Chevy Boys. But two wild pitches during a walk by Cody Johnson brought in Jacksonville’s two runs before another strikeout ended the inning.

The lead was gone by the end of the fifth. Jacksonville’s Johnson retired the first 12 Benton batters in order and carried a perfect game into the fifth. Benton got two hits and Jacksonville committed one error to tie the game at 2-2.

Gwatney took the lead again in the top of the sixth, but only scored one run despite getting two hits, a walk and a hit batter. Jonathan Smith walked to lead things off. With one out, he scored on a double by Jordan Wickersham. Perry was hit by a pitch before Smith lined out to shortstop. Toney then singled to shallow center field, but Wickersham was thrown out at home trying to score on the play to end the inning.

Again, Benton tied it in the bottom half of the same inning. Benton got a one-out base hit to center field, and made it a three-base play with a Gwatney error on the hard grounder. A passed ball scored the runner to make it 3-3.

Jacksonville went down in order in the top of the seventh, and Benton scored the game-winning run without a base hit. With one out, Benton’s Brian Westyn walked on four pitches and stole second base. He moved to third on a groundout to second. With two outs, a pickoff throw from home was in the dirt and bounced into the outfield, allowing Westyn to trot home for the win.

“I was OK with the throw,” said Jacksonville coach Marvin Helsley. “They had scored on a wild pitch earlier and he had taken about a 30-foot lead. It wasn’t supposed to be a hard pick, just to let him know we see him and get him closer to the bag. It just happened that it got away from us. It’s still a frustrating way to lose just the same.”

Jacksonville out-hit Benton 8-3 in the game, with Devin Dobson leading the way, going 2 for 4 at the plate.

In other tournament pool play games, Gwatney-Red beat Benton-Everett 8-5, beat Hot Springs Lakeside 15-4 and lost 7-0 to tournament winner Cabot.

Helsley was impressed with Cabot pitcher Brett Brockinton, who held Jacksonville to three hits in going the distance.

“He threw a gem,” said Helsley. “It’s just unfortunate that it was against us. They have a great team, but I thought it should’ve been closer. Our pitchers threw well, we just booted the ball around. We wouldn’t have won the game, but we could’ve held them to two or three without the unearned runs.”

The four games in the tournament leave Gwatney-Red with a record of 4-3 and they’ll host Benton on Thursday.