Friday, March 24, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> JHS gets mixed results at Central

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans went 1-1 on the first day of the Central Arkansas Invitational, a massive 16-team, three-game guarantee, four-site tournament held during spring break every year. Jacksonville opened the tournament against site host Little Rock Central, and handled the Tigers 7-2. In the second round of the winners’ bracket, the Titans were mercy ruled 13-2 by Lonoke.

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows wasn’t overly excited about either game.

“We finally started playing in the first game, but Central really didn’t put any pressure on us,” said Burrows. “Wick (Jordan Wickersham) pitched well, so I’ll give him credit. But Lonoke didn’t wait on us. They jumped on us and we didn’t respond. We didn’t swing the bats. They’re athletic. They can get around the bases, and you can’t give away outs and not pay for it against a team like that. We gave away a bunch of them.”

In game one, Central held a 1-0 lead through five innings. The Tigers got a leadoff walk, and then a double by Aaron Mann. That’s how it stayed until the top of the sixth when the Jacksonville bats finally came alive.

Kameron Whitmore started the rally with a one-out grounded single to center field. Cade Sample then hit a line drive to center. The Tiger outfielder was caught between trying to dive for the ball and playing it on the hop, and ended up letting it bounce right past him.

The error allowed Whitmore to score from first base, while Sample stopped at second. Quentin Stallard made the second out with a grounder to short, but advanced Sample to third. Jayden Loving was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. Joe Cummings fell into a 0-2 hole, but then he was hit to load the bases.

Another inning-ending play was flubbed when no one got a glove on Payton Williams’ pop up between shortstop and third base. That allowed Sample to score, and set up a two RBI double to the center field wall by Deboious Cobbs that gave Jacksonville a 5-1 lead.

Central (1-10) got one back when Mann reached on an error at third base, moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single by Mason Gresham.

Jacksonville (8-4) set the final margin in the top of the seventh. Trent Toney, Whitmore and Sample hit consecutive singles to start the inning, with Sample’s hit scoring Toney. Stallard then doubled down the line in left field to score Whitmore.

Wickersham went the distance on the mound. In seven innings of work, he gave up just four hits and one earned run while striking out 10 and walking three. He struck out the side in the third.

Against Lonoke (6-5), Jacksonville gave up 7 earned runs and five unearned. Making matters worse, the Titans lost catcher Kameron Whitmore on the second out of the third inning.

A pop up behind the plate was caught by Whitmore before Stallard barreled into his legs from first base. Burrows wasn’t certain about the extent of Whitmore’s injury, but was disappointed in his team.

“We know we’re not deep in pitching, so we’re going to have to swing the bats and we can’t waste outs,” Burrows said. “That kid (Lonoke pitcher Haven Hunter) is pretty good, but we’ve got to hit that guy if we’re going to beat anybody decent.

“Same thing with the kid from Central. He’s basically just out there throwing a fastball, and we didn’t do anything with it for five innings.”