Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney goes 2-1 at Sheridan

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team won in its third game of pool play in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic tournament on Saturday night, defeating the Benton Harmony Grove Cardinals by a score of 12-1.

Gwatney, however, had lost to Sheridan’s McCoy Tygart team 6-5 on Friday. Sheridan won all three games in pool play to advance to the bracket games on Sunday. Jacksonville had defeated Stuttgart, also 12-1, on Thursday, and finished pool play with a 2-1 tally.

Gwatney, the visitor on the scoreboard, did not score in the first inning, but Harmony Grove did score one run. Jacksonville then scored every inning through the fifth and final frame, while not allowing the Cardinals to score again.

“Thank goodness we didn’t have to play as good as we should, but we played good enough to win,” Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham said after Saturday’s game. “We hit the ball a little better at times tonight and got a little bit better pitching tonight than we did last night. We’re proud of where we are, and we’ve got to get ready. We’ve got sixstraight days next week of playing. We don’t miss a day until a week from Sunday. We’ve got a tournament starting Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Jacksonville.”

Gwatney went in order in the first inning.

Harmony Grove’s first base runner reached on a strikeout in the dirt. A double by Sean Small gave the Cardinals runners on second and third. A ground out to first base scored the runner from third for the only run and only lead of the game. The next batter grounded out to second on a nice play by Trent Toney.

Jacksonville scored three times in the top of the second inning. Brandon Hickingbotham and Jayden Loving drew base on balls, and DeBoious Cobbs found the grass in short right field for a hit that scored Hickingbotham. Brandon Hawkins walked, Kameron Whitmore was hit by a pitch which scored Loving. Toney reached on an error on which Cobbs scored to give Gwatney a 3-1 advantage.

The Cardinals had a runner reach on an error, but the Jacksonville infield turned a double play to erase him.

Gwatney doubled their score in the third to take a 6-1 lead. Hickingbotham singled to right field, Tyson Flowers walked, and Jordan Wickersham put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a hit to load the bases. Then, after two outs, Hawkins walked which scored Flowers, and Whitmore singled to right center to score Wickersham and Loving.

Harmony Grove had runners reach on a walk and a hit by pitch, but both were caught stealing by catcher Wickersham, one at second, and the next at third.

Jacksonville added two in the fourth on an infield hit by Cobbs that scored two runs as the bases were loaded at the time.

Loving struck out the side in the Cardinal half of the inning. Loving pitched the entire game for Gwatney, and also struck out the last two Harmony Grove batters in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville had scored four runs on two hits and two Cardinal errors in the top of the fifth to set the final score of 12-1. Toney and Cobbs had the hits, and Toney, Caden Sample, Flowers and Bo Self all scored.

Cobbs had three hits to lead Gwatney. Whitmore, Toney, Hickingbotham, and Wickersham all had one hit each. Flowers reached base three times on two walks, on an error, and scored three runs, Wickersham reached twice more on walks, and Hawkins reached base three times on base on balls.

The Gwatney senior team (6-2) added a win on Monday, going on the road and beating Searcy 13-3. Hawkins pitched two innings and got the win. Wickersham pitched two innings and Hickingbotham threw the final three to preserve the victory.

Jacksonville begins hosting its annual Senior American Legion Invitational today at Dupree Park. The tournament opens at 5:30 p.m. with Cabot taking on Searcy. Jacksonville faces the Little Rock Vipers at 7:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Jacksonville plays Cabot at 5:30 p.m while the Vipers and Conway follow. On Friday, Cabot plays Conway and Jacksonville faces Searcy. Saturday’s schedule has Little Rock facing Searcy at 1:30 p.m. and Jacksonville playing Conway at 4 p.m. The event closes Sunday with Searcy playing Conway at 1:30 p.m. and the Vipers facing Cabot at 4 p.m. The best record wins the tournament.

The Gwatney junior team lost to Searcy on Monday to fall to 9-5 overall.