Tuesday, May 02, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans rally to defeat Zebras

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans overcame a terrible start to rally for a 7-6 victory over Pine Bluff on Saturday at Dupree Park. With the win, the Titans qualify for the Class 6A state tournament that takes place next week in Benton.

Two walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch, two base hits and two infield errors gave the Zebras a quick 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

The Titans got all of it back in the bottom half, and then outscored Pine Bluff 2-1 the rest of the way to seal the victory.

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said he was growing concerned as the top of the first inning unfolded poorly for the home team, but felt better after talking with his players in the middle of the inning.

“It’s like I told them on the field when they came in (after the top of the first). I saw a look in their eyes that told me they weren’t panicked or too worried. They still looked confident, and I felt better. I was still a little worried if (starting pitcher Jordan) Wickersham would find it. But he did, and we got the win.”

Wickersham walked leadoff hitter Wesley Hunt to start the game. He stole second base, but Wickersham picked him. Zebra pitcher Brandon Little singled and stole second. Wickersham hitArkansas State signee Jaylon DeShazier and Rod Stinson singled to center field to score Little.

An error at third base scored DeShazier, and another error at third loaded the bases. Wickersham then walked Cameron Crane to score Stinson. Xavier Smith scored on a wild pitch and Kevawn Goins scored a sacrifice fly by Randy Little Jr. for the quick 5-0 lead.

After a pep talk by Burrows, the Jacksonville bats went to work against Little. Kameron Whitmore hit a hard line drive to left for what should’ve been a double, but Whitmore stopped halfway between first and second base and retreated to first. Caleb Smith grounded to second for what should’ve been a double play, but the E4 left runners safe on the corners. Trent Toney then hit an infield single up the middle. DeShazier made a great play to stop the ball but had no throw as Whitmore scored on the play.

With runners at first and second, another potentially inning-ending double play ball was flubbed when DeShazier’s throw to second was off target after a ground ball by Caden Sample.

With the bases loaded, Wickersham and Jayden Loving drew consecutive RBI walks to make it 5-3. With one out, Quentin Stallard hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Sample. Helsley then walked to load the bases again, and Whitmore walked to drive in the game-tying run.

Neither team scored in the second or third inning. Pine Bluff (9-12) took the lead in the top of the fourth, but Jacksonville (14-12) tied it right back up in the bottom half. Smith hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Wickersham.

Smith also scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning after another leadoff double to left field. Toney then bunted down the first base line, where the ball was fielded, but thrown away, allowing Smith to score what would be the game-winning run.

Wickersham walked two in the bottom of the seventh but got Stinson to fly out to center field to preserve the victory.

Jacksonville traveled to top-seeded Jonesboro (25-3) on Tuesday for its semifinal matchup. Look for information on that game, as well as the rest of the Titans’ 6A-East tournament action in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.