Thursday, July 02, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney gets its payback

Leader sportswriter

The last time the Jacksonville and Cabot senior American Legion teams played each other, Jacksonville gave up a big lead and Cabot won on a three-RBI, walk-off triple. On Tuesday, it was Gwatney Chevrolet that won via walk-off, as the Chevy Boys knocked off Centennial Bank 8-7 in eight innings at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville (9-5) tied the game at 7-7 in the fifth inning on a two-out, RBI single to right field by Courtland McDonald. Chris Penn scored on the play, but the game remained scoreless for the next two innings, which sent the game to extras.

Gwatney held Centennial Bank scoreless during its at-bat, and Jacksonville started the bottom of the eighth strong. With the top of the order up, McDonald reached on an error at second base to start things off, and two-hole hitter Ryan Mallison walked the next at-bat.

Three-hole hitter and winning pitcher Brandon Hickingbotham laid down what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt down the third base line, but the bunt was so well executed that it turned into a single.

That brought cleanup hitter Laderrious Perry to the plate with the bases loaded, and with a full count, Perry hit a chopper to third base that was fielded cleanly by Brandon Jones.

Jones threw home for the force out, and although the throw was in time, it was too high, and that allowed McDonald to score the game-winning run.

“They played hard,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham of his team. “We really swung the bats well tonight, played pretty good defense. We’re playing kids in positions they’ve never played before. We’re just really shorthanded on players.

“They’re working and trying to do the best they can. We’ve just been playing a lot of days in a row and we haven’t gotten a chance to take a break. They’ve had good days and bad days, but I’m proud of them and it was a good effort tonight.”

Coach Hickingbotham acknowledged that his players had their last meeting with Cabot on their minds entering this game. In that game in early June, Jacksonville jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but Cabot steadily chipped away at that lead and came back to beat Jacksonville 12-11 on a walk-off, three-RBI triple.

“They did,” Hickingbotham said. “They got embarrassed last time. We went up eight runs and then we got beat 12-11. That kills your attitude a little bit, but they came back and played hard. Cabot’s got a good ballclub, a lot of good talent on there. We just played a little better tonight.”

After a scoreless first inning, Cabot reeled off four runs in the top of the second to take a 4-0 lead. Jacksonville, though, answered with five runs in the bottom of the second to make it a 5-4 game. Cabot, however, answered with three more runs in the top of the third.

Gavin Tillery reached base that inning after being hit by a pitch, and Easton Seidl followed with a stand-up double off the fence in left center. Two batters later, Hayden Vinson drove both runners in with a single to left field.

Vinson advanced to second base on a Caleb Harpole walk. He then reached third, then home on wild pitches, which gave Centennial Bank a 7-5 cushion.

Jacksonville scored its sixth run in the bottom of the third on a two-out, stand-up double by Penn that sailed to the fence in left center. Donte Crudup scored on the play after also reaching base via double one batter earlier.

Both teams were scoreless in the fourth inning, but Jacksonville tied it up in the fifth on McDonald’s two-out single to right field, which made it a 7-7 game.

Brandon Hickingbotham took over pitching duties with one out in the top of the fifth and pitched a gem from that point on. He gave up only two hits in his time on the mound, and recorded four strikeouts as well.

At the plate, Jacksonville outhit Cabot 12-8. Brandon Hickingbotham and McDonald each went 3 for 4 to lead all batters. Penn was the only other Jacksonville player with multiple hits. He went 2 for 4.

Seidl, Vinson and Harpole led Cabot at the plate Tuesday, as each went 2 for 3.