Friday, May 12, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Weather, new rules predicate Titans’ fall

Leader sports editor

The recent storm system that just moved through Arkansas didn’t just bring rain; it brought lightning and bad luck for the Jacksonville baseball team. The weather, one fielding mistake and new national rules for high school pitchers conspired to help bring the Titans’ season to a close Friday with an 11-1 loss to Texarkana in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament at Benton High School.

Jacksonville and Texarkana were scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Because of earlier delays, the game didn’t start until almost 6 p.m. and was halted because of lightning just a few pitches into the top of the first inning.

After about a 40-minute delay with no severe weather, the game resumed with Texarkana’s leadoff hitter Drake Browning on second base with one out.

Jacksonville pitcher Jordan Wickersham attempted to pick him off, but he threw wildly and the ball got into center field while Browning trotted to third.

Austin Nix then hit a grounder to shortstop where Trent Toney let it carom off his leg and into center field while Browning scored.

Dylan Adcock popped up in the infield, and Titan catcher Kameron Whitmore threw Nix out attempting to steal second base to get out of the jam.

Jacksonville had a chance to tie in the bottom of the inning. Trent Toney was in scoring position after a double to right field with the cleanup hitter at the plate with two outs. But Caden Sample struck out.

Another error in the top of the second, this one with two outs, extended Wickersham’s pitch count. Those three defensive mistakes in just two innings of play proved huge when play was stopped in the middle of the second.

New rules for pitchers go by pitch count instead of innings. The amount of rest required for a pitcher depends on pitch count. If a pitcher reaches 30 pitches, he cannot pitch the next day. Wickersham had thrown two innings and was at 34 pitches when play was stopped. Adcock, Texarkana’s ace, had thrown one inning, and was only at 17 pitches.

That meant when the two teams went back at 10 a.m. Friday to finish, Texarkana would have its ace while Jacksonville would not. Even more, Adcock’s pitch count started over. So he would’ve been allowed to throw 127 pitches in the game, since he was still allowed his maximum of 110 on Friday.

Adcock was in good form on Friday, and Jacksonville did not have the pitching depth to keep the Razorbacks off the board.

Jacksonville’s season ends with a record of 15-14. Texarkana improved to 11-15 and advances to today’s quarterfinals.