Friday, April 08, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> JHS beats SH for first time since ’08

Leader sports editor

Before this season, the last time the Jacksonville softball Lady Red Devils beat Sylvan Hills was 2008. They did it twice on Tuesday 11-7 and 4-1, and in so doing, staked an early claim to an outright 5A-Central Conference championship, and a number one seed in the state tournament next month in Harrison.

If the Lady Red Devils hold serve and win out in conference, which they should do since only the bottom tier teams in the league are left on the schedule, it will be Jacksonville’s first conference championship in softball since 2004.

“I’m just proud of them,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “They have had this one (Sylvan Hills) circled since day one. They didn’t play their best in that first game, but they played hard and they bounced back from the mistakes, just like they always seem to do. But I like the games like the second a lot more. It’sa lot less stressful without all the errors.”

The two teams combined for a whopping 11 errors in game one, including seven by Jacksonville. Five of those came in the second and third innings and led to three unearned runs for Sylvan Hills (7-6, 4-2).

Jacksonville scored first in the bottom of the first inning on an error by Sylvan Hills. Allison Seats singled to start the game, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Bailey Holt.

Seats was still at third after Emily Lovercheck drove a pitch into the ground right in front of home plate for a 2-3 putout, but scored when catcher Cara Pozza’s pickoff throw from home to third missed by Joy Franco.

Franco reached on an error by JHS shortstop Kinley Burrows to start the second inning. Doma’Nique Hunt then pushed a bunt past pitcher Kym House for an infield single.

Jacksonville (12-2, 6-0) almost got out of the jam without allowing a run. Lynlee Broadway hit a line drive back to House for one out, and Franco was stranded too far off the bag for the 1-4 double play.

But two more JHS errors allowed Hunt to score.

Madison Shelton’s ground ball to third was mishandled by Lovercheck, who still tried to make a late throw to first. That was on target, but was missed anyway by Brianna Loyd. Hunt moved to third on Lovercheck’s throw, and scored on Loyd’s miss to tie the game.

Broadway hit House with a pitch to start Jacksonville’s three-run second inning. Madeline Smith moved House’s courtesy runner, Megan Davis, to second with a sacrifice bunt. Loyd singled to put runners on the corners and Burrows singled to score Davis. Three batters later and with two outs, Holt ripped a line drive to right-center field for two RBIs.

Sylvan Hills’ first two batters got on base via two more Jacksonville errors in the third, one by Burrows and one by House. Storm Ellis scored Pozza with a sacrifice grounder and Franco drove in Tristen Goodson with a base hit to left field that pulled the Lady Bears to within 4-3.

Sylvan Hills took its first lead of the game in the top of the fifth. Pozza hit a leadoff single and Goodson reached base on a sacrifice bunt when House made an ill-advised and unsuccessful attempt to get the lead runner at second.

Ellis then sacrificed the runners into scoring position and Franco got two more RBIs with a base hit down the third-base line.

But in the seventh, Jacksonville began hitting the ball hard and it was Sylvan Hills’ defense that fell apart. After a fly out by Mackenzie Rodgers, House was hit for the second time and Smith singled. Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson then shifted his fielders around, swapping fielders in right field, center field and third base.

On the very next pitch, Loyd reached on an error at third and House scored on the play. With runners on the corners, Burrows put down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored Smith and left everyone safe and still one out. Zylah Richardson then slapped a running base hit to right field to load the bases. Seats then doubled to the wall in left field for an 8-5 Jacksonville lead.

Holt singled to drive in another run and Seats scored on another error by Sylvan Hills, this one at second base off Lovercheck’s bat. Rodgers then doubled to left on her second at-bat of the inning to drive in JHS’s final two runs.

Sylvan Hills set the final margin in the sixth when Madison Shelton hit a two-run home run after a Broadway single.

Holt led Jacksonville in game one, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

There were no earned runs in game two. Jacksonville’s defense improved and Loyd pitched a gem in the circle for the Lady Devils.

The game was scoreless until Jacksonville scored three runs in the top of the third on two walks, two Sylvan Hills errors and a hit batter. Another unearned run scored for Jacksonville in the top of the fourth after Seats reached on an E6 and Lovercheck singled to drive her home.

Sylvan Hills scored its only run in the bottom of the fifth. Broadway reached on an error by Richardson in left field, and scored two batters later on a base hit by Shelton.

Loyd gave up four hits in seven innings and no earned runs. She struck out three, walked three and hit one batter.

Shelton led the Lady Bears offensively on the night. She went 3 for 6 with a home run and three RBIs.

Seats went 3 for 6 with a double, three RBIs and four runs scored in the two games combined.