Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney makes state

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Junior American Legion baseball team qualified for the state tournament with a top-four finish in the District 3-4 combo tournament in Cabot.

The Chevy Boys earned a first-round bye by finishing second in the regular season in District 3, and opened the tournament with 12-10 marathon win over Cabot in the second round.

Jacksonville led that game 9-0 in the fifth inning and got a runner thrown out at home with no outs. A new and strict American Legion pitch-count limit then forced Jacksonville coach Chuck Winer to pull pitcher Jayden Loving with a no-hitter going through four innings, and Cabot almost pulled off a dramatic comeback.

Cabot’s first four runs came with no hits. Three walks, a sacrifice grounder and a two-run error pulled the Centennial Bank squad to within 9-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Cabot got its first hit of the game in the sixth when Brian Tillery singled to center field. The second hit came two batters later when Michael Crumbly hit a two-RBI double to left. A walk and another Jacksonville error and a sacrifice fly by Geno Germer brought another run in and made the score 9-6.

Jacksonville scored three runs in the top of the seventh, starting with a one-out triple by Axton Ramick, who later scored on a wild pitch. A hit batter and two Cabot errors brought in Gwatney Chevrolet’s final two runs.

Tillery hit a two-RBI double with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. He stole second base, and scored on a wild throw while trying to steal third. Two more walks was followed by a double steal and a sac fly by Peyton Williams, but pitcher Foster Rash got a groundout to third and a strikeout to end the rally and game.

Tillery and Crumbly both reached base on all five of their at-bats. Tillery walked twice, was hit once, doubled, singled and scored three runs. Crumbly walked three times, was hit once and doubled in the sixth inning.

Jonathan Smith only had one hit for Jacksonville, but it was a bases-loaded triple in the third inning that gave the Chevy Boys a 7-0 lead. Ramick and Loving had two apiece to lead Gwatney.

Jacksonville then lost its quarterfinal game 6-0 to White Hall to drop to the loser’s bracket. There they fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but came back for a 11-3 victory over District 4 runner-up Monticello on Sunday.

Jacksonville got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Quentin Stallard hit a bases-loaded double to pull the Chevy Boys to within one run. Joe Cummings hit a sac fly deep to right field to bring in Isaiah Cain and tie the game. Ramick then singled to drive in Stallard and put Gwatney up 4-3.

In the fourth inning, nine-hole hitter Braelyn Preston hit a leadoff single to left field, followed by a walk by Jonathan Smith. Cain put down a sacrifice bunt, but placed it well enough to turn it into a single to load the bases. A pitch hit Loving to score Preston, and Stallard singled for his third RBI of the game and left the bases full.

Cummings was then hit for another RBI and Stallard capped the inning by scoring on a wild pitch that made the score 9-3.

Ramick was then hit by pitch and still no outs in the fourth, but a new pitcher put the next three Jacksonville batters down in order. He did the same thing in the fifth inning, but Jacksonville got rolling again in the sixth. Stallard started it off with a double down the line in right field.

Caden Sample caught a break with a high bouncer for an infield single that left runners on the corners.

Sample got caught in a rundown on a pickoff move and Stallard scored during it. Sample ended up safe at second, and made it to third on an errant throw. He then scored on a balk to set the final margin.

Stallard went 3 for 4 with three RBIs.

Jacksonville, short on pitching, dropped its semifinal game to Prairie Grove on Monday, 13-1. The Chevy Boys will open play in the state tournament at 4 p.m. Friday at UALR.