Friday, June 30, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank rallies past Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team erased a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning to steal a comeback victory from rival Jacksonville on Wednesday at the Cabot Sports Complex. Gwatney Chevrolet pitcher Brandon Hawkins was masterful for five innings, but was pulled in the sixth after failing to record an out in three at-bats and his pitch count reached 100.

He left after giving up two runs, and three more later scored to give Cabot the lead and eventually the win.

Through the first five innings, Hawkins gave up only two hits while striking out nine and walking one. But his pitch count was hampered by four fielding errors that forced him to pitch out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

Cabot coach Casey Vaughan bragged on the opposing pitcher, but thought his team could have had much better at-bats.

“We’ve just had a lot of selfish at-bats lately,” said Vaughan. “We hit really well to start the season. We haven’t the last several because we haven’t taken a team approach to these games or the to the plate. But I don’t want to take anything away from their pitcher. He was excellent tonight. He’s always difficult. I feel like we could have done better than we did, but I knew we would have to be disciplined to get to him and we weren’t.”

Hawkins issued just his second walk of the game to start the bottom of the sixth inning to Dillon Thomas. He then gave up just the third base hit of the game, a double ripped through the gap in left-center field by Easton Seidl that scored Thomas all the way from first.

Brian Tillery then fought back from a 0-2hole to poke a base hit down the right-field line to score Seidl and end Hawkins’ night.

Brody Schluter then singled off Jayden Loving to score Tillery, right after a wild pitch moved Tillery into scoring position. Rail Gilliam then laid down a surprise bunt and Koletan Eastham walked to load the bases and still no one out.

Jacksonville was close to getting out of the inning with a tie intact after Michael Crumbly grounded into a 4-2-3 double play, but leadoff hitter Blake McCutchen also put down a surprise two-out bunt to score Gilliam. That left Eastham at third, and Loving balked him home to set the final margin.

The rally in the final at-bat gave Vaughan some hope that his team could turn around its recent hitting woes.

“I think it could if we’ll learn from it,” Vaughan said. “We dug ourselves a hole, and when it got late we got back to how you’re supposed to play. If we’ll learn from that we can build on it going forward. This is still a very talented team.”

Jacksonville scored two runs on a two-out error by Cabot in the top of the first inning. Trent Toney and Jordan Wickersham were on the corners when Tyson Flowers sliced a line drive to left field.

The Cabot outfielder over-ran the curving shot and the ball rolled all the way to the fence, allowing both base runners to score.

The Chevy Boys added another run in the top of the sixth on three base hits, but the rally was cut short by a controversial call. Wickersham, Loving and Caleb Smith had all singled, with Smith’s line drive to center field scoring Wickersham. With two outs, Jonathan Smith hit a high bouncing grounder down the third baseline in fair territory, but curving foul.

Crumbly was standing in fair territory and fielded it before it landed in foul territory. The umpire ruled it foul by determining Crumbly’s hand was in foul territory when he caught the ball.

Jacksonville fans didn’t like the call, but by rule it was the correct one. Before passing first or third, where the ball is touched is the ruling, rather than where it last hit the ground.

No runs would have scored on the play, but Jonathan Smith would have been safe at first, leaving the bases loaded with two outs. Instead, Smith then grounded to first base, where Seidl made the unassisted out to end the inning.

Cabot’s Caleb Wilson pitched a fine game as well. He went the distance, giving up one earned run with three strikeouts and zero walks.

Jacksonville out-hit Cabot 9-7, with Kameron Whitmore and Wickersham each going 2 for 4 to lead the way for the Chevy Boys.

Toney, Caden Sample, Loving, Caleb Smith and Jonathan Smith had the other Jacksonville base hits.

Wednesday’s matchup was the second game of the week for both teams.

On Monday, Jacksonville battled back from a 12-2 deficit at Benton, only to fall 13-12 in a wild affair.

On Tuesday, Cabot (8-8) mustered just three base hits while committing five errors in a 3-1 loss at Russellville.

Jacksonville (7-5) will travel to Stuttgart on Friday, and then to Clarksville on Saturday.

Cabot hits the road to take part in the Keith Hagan All-American 4th of July Classic in Memphis that is scheduled for Friday through next Wednesday.