Tuesday, June 21, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville strong until last game of Wood Bat tourney

Leader sports editor

A fantastic tournament run ended with an equally abysmal finale for the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team Sunday at the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan.

The Jacksonville squad went undefeated in its pool, beating Monticello, Bryant AA and White Hall, to advance in the semifinals on Sunday.

They beat Magnet Cove 3-2 with a walk-off double by Caleb McMunn, but fell apart in the championship game, getting run ruled 9-1 by tournament host Sheridan in six innings.

“Just too many errors,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham of the championship game. “We didn’t do that most of the tournament. We got pretty good pitching the whole tournament. We didn’t hit it extremely well but we did all right. We played good defense up until the last one and that’s what got us here. Overall it was a pretty good run.”

The Gwatney squad committed five errors total. Sheridan’s leadoff hitter reached base on errors in three separate innings, and another Yellowjacket leadoff reached on a 0-2 hit-by-pitch.

Earlier on Sunday, Jacksonville held a 2-1 lead until the Black Cats’ Korey Wasson of Hot Springs High School, single-handedly got his team back into a tie.

Wasson took the mound in the fifth inning, retiring Jacksonville’s 2-3-4 hitters in order with two groundouts to third and a strikeout. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Wasson struck out the side in order.

In the top of the seventh, he hit a one-out single to center field. Moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then stole third base and home plate on consecutive pitches to make the score 2-2.

But he couldn’t maintain the momentum in Gwatney’s final turn at bat. Jacksonville eight-hole hitter Jordan Wickersham hit a leadoff single to center field before catcher Randy Traywick struck out. During that at-bat, Wickersham moved to second base on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch.

At the top of the lineup, Tyson Flowers battled to a nine-pitch walk to put runners on the corners. Mike Havard, who has the team’s highest batting average, was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force at home plate or a double-play ball.

The outfield moved in close for the chance to make a play at home in case of a base hit, but McMunn launched a hard line drive over the right fielder to give Jacksonville the win and berth in the championship game.

The Chevy Boys scored their first two runs in the bottom of the first inning, and did it without a base hit. Flowers drew a leadoff walk, and Havard laid down a sacrifice bunt that was thrown into foul territory down the right-field line. The ball rolled far enough for Flowers to score all the way from first base on the play while Havard stopped at third base.

McMunn grounded out to shortstop, where Havard was forced to hold his spot, but he scored on a groundout to first base by Brandon Hickingbotham. The next three Gwatney Chevrolet batters walked, but Wickersham struck out with the bases loaded.

Wasson also scored Magnet Cove’s first run. He led off the top of the second inning with a base hit to left field and stole second base. He later scored on a 4-6 groundout by Hunter Bolin.

The Jacksonville Senior team hosts its annual mid-season tournament on Thursday, beginning with Cabot vs. Searcy at 5:45. That game is followed by Jacksonville taking on White Hall.

On Friday, Jacksonville plays Conway at 5:45 while Magnet Cove faces Cabot afterwards. On Saturday, Searcy plays Magnet Cove at 4 p.m. and Conway plays White Hall at 7 p.m. The two third-place pool teams face each other in the final round at noon on Sunday, with second-place teams following and the tournament championship scheduled for approximately 5:30 p.m.