Friday, July 08, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> GC seniors avenge Searcy loss

Leader sportswriter

A pitchers’ duel between Jacksonville lefty Brandon Hawkins and Searcy right-hander Austin Allen led to a low-scoring ballgame between Jacksonville and Searcy in their Senior American Legion game Tuesday night at Dupree Park.

Gwatney Chevrolet trailed 1-0 for the first five innings before breaking through with two runs in the sixth, and Hawkins struck out the last three batters of the seventh to give the Chevy Boys a 2-1 victory.

It was a good win for Jacksonville against the same Searcy team that beat the Chevy Boys pretty handily last week, but Jacksonville played that game with only 10 players, forcing Gwatney to use several players from its junior team.

Jacksonville had the bulk of its seniors playing in Tuesday’s game, which resulted in a much more competitive game than last week’s.

“We played pretty good,” said Gwatney Chevrolet coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We have four guys that have not been in here in a week. They went on vacation. We played them guys (Searcy) last week and we only had 10 players there, and they (Searcy) wore us out.”

Searcy scored its lone run Tuesday in the top of the first. Searcy’s Aaron Decker led off the game with a walk. A fly-out to right field followed and Jacob Rose hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice the next at-bat for the second out of the inning.

With cleanup hitter Austin Passmore at the plate, Rose advanced all the way to third base from first on a bad pickoff attempt by the Jacksonville catcher. Passmore eventually walked, and Rose scored on the ball-four pitch because of a passed ball, giving Searcy the 1-0 advantage.

Jacksonville had several runners on base over the next five innings, but could never push a run across the plate, and as a result, the game stayed 1-0 until the sixth. Hawkins gave up his first hit in the top of the sixth inning, but held Searcy scoreless for the fifth-straight inning, and Jacksonville finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth.

Allen was pulled after the fifth inning, and Searcy lefty Bradley Chalk took over pitching duties at the start of the sixth. He struck out the first batter he faced, but walked the next two batters with the top of the order coming up for Jacksonville.

Shortstop Mickey Ivey took over on the mound, and Gwatney leadoff hitter Tyson Flowers drove a 2-2 curve the opposite way in right field, scoring Peyton Traywick for the game-tying run.

Mike Havard then came to the plate for Jacksonville, and with runners at first and second with one out, Ivey tried to pick off Flowers at first, but the throw was off.

That allowed Caleb Smith to score all the way from second base for the go-ahead run.

Flowers was thrown out at third on the same play, and Havard hit into a 1-3 groundout to end the inning with Jacksonville leading 2-1. Passmore singled to left field to lead off the seventh, but Hawkins struck out the next three Searcy batters, swinging, to end the game in Gwatney’s favor.

Hawkins dominated from start to finish. He threw all seven innings, finishing with a game-high 14 strikeouts, while issuing four walks and only two hits.

“Hawkins pitched outstanding,” Hickingbotham said. “Threw 101 pitches and did an outstanding job, and didn’t give up a hit until the sixth.”

Allen also threw well in the first five innings for Searcy. He struck out nine, walked two and gave up five hits, getting the no decision.

Jacksonville outhit Searcy 6-2. Jacksonville’s Caleb McMunn led all batters at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a single and double. Flowers, Brandon Hickingbotham, Jordan Wickersham and Kameron Whitmore had Jacksonville’s other four hits.

Passmore and Kory O’Neal had Searcy’s two hits, both singles.