Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville, Beebe end season shorthanded

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Beebe saw their Junior American Legion seasons come to an end in unusual fashion during the state tournament at UALR over the weekend.

Both teams qualified for state because the second and third place teams from the zone tournament backed out of attending. Jacksonville, who finished fourth, and Beebe, who finished fifth, accepted the invitation to move into the empty slots, but both were badly shorthanded in their season-ending losses.

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet squad picked up one win in the tournament, beating Beebe 6-1 and ending its year after the Post 91 O’Reilly Auto Parts team ran out of players in the fifth inning.

Beebe coach Tyler Burge only had 10 players to start the game, and had used all his substitutions when the heat got to another player, and he could not continue. It was the third player in the tournament to leave the field of play because of the extreme heat during the event.

As the visiting team on the scoreboard, Jacksonville took a quick lead in the top of the first inning. Jonathan Smith drew a leadoff walk and Trent Toney singled to center field. Two batters later, Quentin Stallard singled to load the bases, and Kameron Whitmore drew a walk for the RBI.

Gwatney made it a 3-0 game in the second inning. Isaiah Cain hit into a 4-6 fielder’s choice that got Brandon McGwire thrown out. Smith then hit what should’ve been an inning-ending grounder to third base, but the throw to second was wild, leaving runners safe at second and third. Toney hit a 4-3 groundout that scored Cain, and Caden Sample hit an RBI single to center field for the three-run Jacksonville lead.

Beebe drew two one-out walks in the bottom of the second, but Jacksonville pitcher Foster Rash picked off Hunter Warden at first base, then struck out Callie Neal to get out of the minor jam.

Jacksonville added three more in the top of the third. Each of the first four batters reached base. Whitmore hit a leadoff single, Axton Ramick walked and Joe Cummings laid down a perfect bunt for another base hit that loaded the bases. McGwire was then hit with a two-strike pitch to drive in the inning’s first run.

Cain struck out, but another grounder to third by Smith resulted in another E5 that allowed Ramick to score. Toney then hit another sacrifice grounder to second base that scored Cummings and gave Jacksonville a 6-0 advantage.

Beebe got some help from the Jacksonville defense in the bottom of the third. Jacob Rogers drew a leadoff walk, but was thrown out on a 4-6 fielder’s choice by J.T. Nicholson.

Blaine Burge hit a grounder to third, but Stallard failed to handle the throw to first, leaving everyone safe. Mark Clairday then popped up to second base, but Smith missed it, again leaving everyone safe and the bases full.

Randy Smith’s grounder to third resulted in unassisted fielder’s choice by McGwire, but also drove Beebe’s only run of the game.

Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning. Cummings hit a leadoff single for Jacksonville in the fifth, but that was followed by three-straight outs.

That’s when Tyler Burge informed the umpires and Jacksonville coaches that his player was sick and he didn’t have enough to continue the game.

That moved Jacksonville into Sunday’s third round, where the Chevy Boys found themselves in the same situation Beebe was in on Saturday.

A total of seven Gwatney players were absent for various reasons for Sunday’s game, leaving the team with only 11 total, and very little pitching.

Jacksonville competed with Blytheville while the pitching held out. The score was 5-5 after four innings, but Blytheville ran away late for a 17-7 victory. Cain led off the game with single to left field, but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base.

Jacob McCaa started on the mound for Gwatney. His first two pitches were several feet over the umpire’s head and he walked the first batter, but he struck out the next one.

Blytheville’s Austin Wren then hit an RBI single to center field.

Jacksonville took the lead in the top of the second. Whitmore hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ramick. Cummings was hit before McGwire and Caleb Anderson drew consecutive walks. Cain then sacrificed to score Cummings.

Blytheville scored four in the second inning for a 5-2 lead, but Jacksonville answered with three in the third on three hits and three walks.

Sample and Stallard hit back-to-back one-out singles before Whitmore walked to load the bases. He was replaced by courtesy runner Robert Johnson and Ramick singled to drive in Sample. With the bases still loaded, Cummings drew a walk to score Stallard, and Johnson scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

McCaa reached his pitch limit in the fourth inning, and Jacksonville had no regular pitchers left.

“We knew we would be in trouble today,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We lost two players after Friday, both pitchers. Then we lost five more after Saturday’s game. McCaa, he did OK. He’s only 15 years old, so he did a decent job. After that we just didn’t have anything.”

Jacksonville opened the tournament with a 6-3 loss to Paragould. The Chevy Boys were down 6-0 in fifth inning when storms hit and postponed the rest of the game until Saturday morning.

Jacksonville rallied for three runs in the sixth, but couldn’t complete the comeback.