Friday, April 01, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers earn split with JHS baseball

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Beebe split a 5A-Central doubleheader at Gilliam Fields in Beebe on Tuesday. Jacksonville got an outstanding performance on the mound from Brandon Hawkins in a 6-1 win in game one. Beebe’s Angus Denton was even more dominant as the Badgers came from behind in the last two innings to win game two 10-3.

Playing as the visiting team in game one, Jacksonville got one run in the top of the first inning and never trailed.

Third baseman Caleb McMunn hit a two-out double and scored two batters later after Brandon Hickingbotham walked and Caden Sample singled to right field for the RBI.

Hawkins walked Beebe’s leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first, but got three-straight groundouts to follow. Jacksonville then added three runs to its lead in the top of the second.

Caleb Smith and Trent Toney both walked to start the rally, and both runners scored on a throwing error after a sacrifice bunt by Tyson Flowers. Two batters later with Flowers on third, Mike Havard hit a grounder to second to score the base runner and give Jacksonville a 4-0 lead.

Hawkins walked Beebe’s Bryson Halford with one out, but catcher Javan Wakefield threw him out trying to steal second and Alec Matlock flew out to end the inning for Beebe.

In the top of the third, Wakefield hit a double to start another two-out rally for the Red Devils. Smith followed with a walk and Toney doubled to score both runners for a 6-0 Jacksonville lead.

Beebe (4-7, 3-1) got on the board in the sixth with three hits and a walk, but was only able to push one run across the plate. Hunter Naramore hit a leadoff single and Denton followed with another hard single that left runners at first and second. Carson McNeil grounded into a force out at third. Senior John Finley then singled to load the bases and freshman Noah Jolly walked to drive in the game’s final run.

Hawkins went the distance on the mound for Jacksonville. He gave up six hits with three strikeouts and three walks.

Sample led the Red Devils offensively with two base hits in four at-bats. Toney went 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs.

Game two was a pitchers’ duel despite the 13 combined runs. Defense let both teams down and no earned runs were scored. As the home team, Jacksonville took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after an error at second base left Sample in scoring position with no outs. Wakefield sacrificed him to third and he scored on a wild pitch.

The Red Devils (5-8, 3-1) had another prime opportunity in the fourth when Wakefield hit a one-out triple down the right-field line. But Denton struck out Savage and Toney to strand Wakefield at third.

That’s how it stayed until the top of the sixth inning when the Red Devils’ middle infield fell apart. Two errors at second base and two at shortstop, combined with a walk and double by Jolly gave Beebe six unearned runs and lead Denton, a University of Arkansas signee, would not relinquish.

Jacksonville added an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, but gave up four more unearned in the top of the seventh thanks to three more errors, two in right field and one more in the infield.

Two walks and another Beebe error gave Jacksonville a run in the seventh to set the final margin.

Denton threw a four-hitter over seven innings with 15 strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.

Hickingbotham threw five and two-thirds innings for Jacksonville. He gave up just five hits and no earned runs with one strikeout, no walks and no hit batters. McMunn finished the game and gave up one hit.

Beebe is in a tournament at Batesville this weekend and will host another important conference doubleheader on Tuesday against co-leader Pulaski Academy. Jacksonville also has a huge Central doubleheader on Tuesday when it hosts conference co-leader and archrival Sylvan Hills.