Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville Seniors slip by Conway

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion baseball team got another win last Friday, defeating Conway Fieldhouse 3-1 at Dupree Park.

The Chevy Boys got another strong pitching performance from one of the Brandons. This time it was Brandon Hickingbotham that shut down a strong Conway lineup.

“Well he’s throwing strikes,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He’s doing a good job of hitting his spots. He had a good game and he’s having a pretty good summer.”

Conway’s leadoff hitter walked, stole a base and scored on two sacrifice grounders in the top of the first inning. And that was it for the visiting team’s offensive production.

That early lead didn’t last long. Jacksonville leadoff hitter Kameron Whitmore singled to start the bottom of the first inning. Trent Toney then singled to move him to third, and Hickingbotham’s one-out grounder to shortstop drove in the run and tied the game.

That’s how it remained until bottom of the sixth inning.

Hickingbotham carried a no-hitter through four and two-thirds innings. He finally gave up a base hit with two outs in the fifth. Conway got another two-out hit to put runners at first and second, but they advanced no further. A 5-4 fielder’s choice ended the inning.

Though he had only had one strikeout through five innings, Hickingbotham fanned the side in order in the sixth, and Jacksonville’s offense kept the momentum.

Toney led off the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk. Caden Sample hit a hard line drive to center field, but right to the fielder for the first out. Hickingbotham then walked and Tyson Flowers loaded the bases with a bunt single.

Caleb Smith hit a fly ball to deep right field that scored Toney. Jonathan Smith then laid down a perfect bunt for a single that easily scored Hickingbotham, but Flowers was thrown out trying to catch Conway sleeping and sneak into home on the play as well.

In the top of the seventh, Conway went down in order again on a 4-3 grounder, a pop-up to third base and Hickingbotham’s fifth strikeout to end the game.

Bob Hickingbotham also praised his catcher and leadoff hitter for the getting the game off to a good start, something Whitmore has done consistently this season.

“You know in 15 games, he’s gotten base hits in nine of them to start the game,” coach Hick said of Whitmore. He’s only struck out one time, and his other five outs were line drives. You just don’t do that. He’s been a good one, boy. Let me tell you.”

Jacksonville will host Cabot-Centennial Bank at 6 p.m. tonight at Dupree Park.