Monday, March 28, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils leave beach with a victory

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils lost their first three games at the Gulf Shores Classic over spring break before finally breaking through with a victory over fellow Arkansas team Valley View in game four.

In the first game in Alabama on Monday, Jacksonville led Normal West High School, of Normal, Ill., 7-3 through three innings before giving up seven runs in the fifth in a 10-8 loss. Jacksonville took the lead in the top of the first inning on a leadoff walk by Caleb Smith and base hits by Caleb McMunn and Caden Sample. They made it 3-0 in the second when Trent Toney drew a leadoff walk, followed by Cameron Whitmore reaching on an error. With one out, Mike Havard and McMunn got back-to-back base hits to drive in the base runners.

NWHS got two back in the bottom of the seventh, but the Red Devils pushed four runs across in the plate in the top of the third on just one hit. For the third-straight inning, Jacksonville got a leadoff walk, this time by Javan Wakefield. Sample followed with another walk and Tyson Flowers got an RBI base hit. After a pair of groundouts failed to push across a run, Whitmore walked to load the bases. Smith was hit by a pitch to drive in one run, and the fourth run came in on a wild pitch.

Normal West got an unearned run in the bottom of the third, then exploded for seven, five earned, in the fourth. NWHS had no runs with runners on the corners and two outs when the rally began. A walk loaded the bases before back-to-back doubles drove in five runs. The last two came in on an error at third base.

Jacksonville’s last run came in the seven inning when Sample hit a two-out double and Flowers reached on an error at second base. McMunn and Sample each got two hits lead offensively. McMunn took the loss in the mound.

The Red Devils got an excellent outing on the mound from Brandon Hawkins in game two, but couldn’t get any run support in a 2-1 loss to North Jackson of Jackson, Miss.

Hawkins hit the first batter of the game and Marcus Darnell scored on an error at third on the next at-bat.

Jacksonville tied it in the bottom of the first when McMunn drew a two-out walk, Brandon Hickingbotham singled and Sample hit an RBI double down the left-field line. The game stayed 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning when another error at third base led to the game-winning run.

The error came with one out, and Hawkins got a pop up to mound for the second out. With a runner on second, William Patton got NJHS’s second hit of the game to score Terrence Cooper for a one-run lead.

Jacksonville got a leadoff hit by Whitmore in the bottom of the seventh, and he moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Toney. But Wesley Williams and Wakefield each struck out to end the threat.

Jacksonville also got its first two runners on base in the third inning and failed to score.

Hawkins threw all seven innings, giving up just two hits and zero earned runs while striking out nine, hitting one and walking zero. He retired 15 straight batters from one out in the second inning until the error in the seventh.

In the third game, Jacksonville fell 7-6 to Mountain Brook, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. Walks accounted for most of Mountain Brook’s runs. Brandon Hickingbotham threw four innings and left after giving up four runs; three earned on five hits, three walks, a hit batter and an error.

MBHS then scored three runs in the fifth on five walks issued by relievers Savage and Williams. Jordan Wickersham came in to stop the bleeding and finished the game, but Jacksonville could only muster two more runs, one each in the sixth and seventh innings.

Hickingbotham went 2 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and Havard went 2 for 2 and reached base on four of five plate appearances. Savage also got two this in three at-bats.

In the last game of the tournament, Jacksonville came from behind to beat Valley View 8-3. Havard had a much better outing than his relief appearance against Normal West.

The Blazers scored one run in the first inning on two hits, an error and a hit batter, but didn’t score again until a run in the fourth tied the game.

Jacksonville took the lead with two runs in the third inning. Whitmore drew a leadoff walk and Havard got a base hit before McMunn hit into a 6-3 double play. Hickingbotham then hit an RBI triple to the wall in center field, and scored on a base hit by Sample.

The Red Devils posted an unearned run to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth, then posted five in the sixth to blow the game open.

With one out and Toney on base after a fielder’s choice, Smith singled to right-center field. Whitmore walked to load the bases and Havard singled to score a run. McMunn then hit a two-RBI double to right field and Hickingbotham hit a two-RBI single that put the Red Devils up 8-2.

Valley View got one run in the seventh on two walks and a hit off McMunn, who threw the last 1 1/3 inning of relief.

Havard threw 5 2/3, giving up five hits with one strikeout, no walks and two hit batters.

Jacksonville (4-7, 2-0) gets back to 5A-Central Conference play on Tuesday when they travel to Beebe for a varsity doubleheader against the Badgers.