Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans shut down Badgers

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville bounced back from its worst outing of the year to hammer an injury-bitten Beebe Badger team 17-0 Friday at Dupree Park. The win was an important bounce-back effort after recording their worst outing of the year in dropping two mercy-rule games to Maumelle last Wednesday to open 5A/6A-Central Conference play.

“I think it was a good win for us,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “Sometimes young teams get hit in the mouth. You have to respond to that. We talked about, there’s nothing we can do about it except respond. Focus was good at practice on Thursday and they played pretty well.”

The Titans got an outstanding performance from freshman Kyle Williams on the mound. He threw a one-hitter over five innings of work, drawing praise from Burrows.

“They say momentum is as good as your next game’s pitcher,” Burrows said. “A lot of this win had to do with what Kyle was doing for us. He was coming in late for us early in the season, and he’s working his way up there. He did a great job.”

The game remained scoreless for two innings, but all the damage was done in the next two, ending the game in the middle of the fifth inning. Jacksonville showed signs in those first two innings of having the potential to score some runs.

Beebe sat the first six Jacksonville batters down in order, despite three of the six reaching base.

The Titans didn’t waste those base runners in the third and fourth innings.

“I didn’t know if we were going to have a big inning, but I felt good about our chances because of how Kyle was throwing,” Burrows said. “After watching him for a couple innings I felt pretty good about it. He’s just a freshman and we’re trying to help him grow up a little bit. The umpire called him for a balk and made him change his stance. That could’ve been detrimental, but he got back up, changed the way he set up on the mound and didn’t let it bother him. That was big for him. I was proud of that as much as anything else that happened out there.”

After a leadoff strikeout in the third inning, the next six Titan batters got base hits. J.D. Loving got the rally going with a one-out single that DeBoious Cobbs followed with a double to center field. Back at the top of the lineup, Gabe Helsley singled to drive in the two runners, and then scored himself on a double by Trent Toney.

The single-double combination continued with Kameron Whitmore singling to drive in a run, and Caden Sample doubling to right field to score Whitmore and put Jacksonville up 5-0. Quentin Stallard made the second out with a fly ball to right, but Joe Cummings continued the rally with an RBI base hit to left.

Jordan Wickersham, who led off the inning, reached on a throwing error by the pitcher that allowed Cummings to score and Wickersham to advance all the way to third.

Wickersham then scored on a passed ball to give Jacksonville an 8-0 lead.

The Titans then posted nine runs in the fourth, keeping the bats hot while Beebe sprinkled in a few walks and errors to help set the one-sided final margin.

Cobbs drew a leadoff walk before Helsley singled and Toney reached on an E6. Whitmore got his second base hit as well as his third and fourth RBIs to put Jacksonville up 10-0. Sample then drove two in with his second double of the game.

Stallard and Cummings followed with back-to-back singles that made it 13-0 and left two on base. Brandon McGuire, batting for Wickersham, walked to load the bases and Jonathan Smith, hitting for Loving, singled to left drive in another run.

On his second at-bat of the inning, Cobbs made the inning’s first out with an RBI groundout to second that scored Cummings. The final two runs crossed the plate after Rash, hitting for Helsley, reached on another throwing error by the Beebe infield.

Blaine Burge got the only base hit for the Badgers. He got to third base in the third inning and Bryson Halford also reached after getting hit by a pitch. But Williams fanned Noah Jolly to get out of the jam. Beebe (3-6-1, 1-3) also got runners on base in the second and fourth innings.

In the second, Alec Matlock walked with one out, but the next two batters grounded out back to the mound. Matlock drew a one-out walk again in the fourth, but Jacob Rogers hit into a 6-4-3 double play on the next at-bat.

Jacksonville (7-3, 0-2) takes part in the 16-team Central Arkansas Invitational that begins Thursday at four different sites in the area. The Titans will play twice tomorrow at Little Rock Christian Academy. They will face Little Rock Central at noon. If they win, they will play the winner between Lonoke and Alma at 7:30. A loss means a 5 p.m. game with the loser of Lonoke-Alma.