Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville lefty quiets Morrilton’s senior team

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville-Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team went 2-1 at the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic last week, but didn’t win its pool and failed to advance to the tournament round of the state’s largest mid-season tournament for the first time in four years.

Jacksonville opened the tournament with a 9-2 victory over Hot Springs Village on Thursday before losing 3-1 to pool winner Malvern on Friday. The Chevy Boys closed the tournament on Saturday without several starters. Two starters were taking the ACT while others attended a football camp in Memphis. Gwatney still beat Morrilton 6-1 behind a dominant pitching performance by Brandon Hawkins. The lanky left-hander threw a complete-game two-hitter against the Cogswell Motors team from Conway County.

Hawkins gave up no earned runs while striking out seven and walking three.

Playing as the visiting team, the shorthanded Jacksonville squad gave Hawkins an early lead to work with, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning.

D.J. Scott moved to the leadoff spot and roped a single to left field on the game’s first pitch. On the second pitch, Ryan Mallison pulled a line drive down the first-base line for an RBI, standup triple. Two batters later, Colton Goodman hit a sacrifice fly to score Mallison and give Gwatney the early 2-0 lead.

No one scored in the second, but Jacksonville made it 4-0 in the third. Mallison pulled another hit to right field, this time for a single with one out. He stole second base and Laderrious Perry drove him in with a base hit to left field. With two outs, Chris Penn singled to straightaway center field, scoring Perry for the final run of the inning.

Morrilton scored its lone run in the bottom of the third. A two-out error left a runner safe at first base before Morrilton’s first base hit, a double off the wall in center field, drove in the run.

“That’s what happens when you commit errors,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He (Hawkins) should’ve had him a shutout, but we made too many mistakes in the field.”

In the third inning, Morrilton gave the unearned run back plus one. Braxton McKinney got a leadoff single and Donte Harris drew a one-out walk to put two runners on base. Mallison then hit a hard grounder to second base that was bungled. McKinney got to third easily on the play, and broke for home when the ball bounced away from the second baseman. He was safe on a close play at the plate, and Mallison broke for second on the throw home. Mallison made it thanks to a nifty feet-first slide around the outside of the base, and Harrison broke for home on the throw to second. The second throw home beat Harris to the plate, but was too high, forcing the catcher to leap to make the catch and making him unable to apply the tag in time.

Hawkins walked the first batter of the fourth inning on four pitches, but got two infield pop-ups and a strikeout to end the inning without the runner advancing. He also walked a batter with two outs in each of the fifth and sixth innings, but both times struck out the following batter.

An error at third base put Morrilton’s leadoff hitter on base to start the seventh inning, and a one-out base hit put runners at the corers. But Hawkins fanned the next batter and D.J. Scott saved a run and ended the game by tracking down a deep shot to center field for the final out.

“We got a bunch missing and a lot of people in different positions from what they’re used to,” Hickingbotham said. “So overall they did pretty good.”

The tournament play leaves Jacksonville with a 4-3 record. The Gwatney senior team traveled to Conway on Tuesday after Leader deadlines, and will host Conway in the final game of a junior-senior doubleheader tonight that begins at 6 p.m.