Monday, March 30, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils trounce Alma

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils moved their record above .500 for the first time this season, hammering the Alma Airedales 14-2 in four innings in the opening round of the Central Arkansas Invitational at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. The game didn’t start until almost 10 p.m. and didn’t end until almost midnight, and head coach Larry Burrows wasn’t entirely pleased, despite the lopsided final score.

“I just thought we were kind of sloppy,” said Burrows. “It wasn’t as dominant pitching as we’ve seen recently and I thought we did a decent job of adjusting at the plate. But overall I didn’t think our approach was real solid and just thought it was kind of sloppy. It’s a good win, but we can do better.”

Two-hole hitter Ryan Mallison got Jacksonville rolling in the top of the first inning with a double off the wall in left field. Shortstop Caleb McMunn followed that with an RBI single to the left-center gap.

Greg Jones hit the ball deep to right field for the second out. James Tucker then hit a pop-up down the line in shallow left field, where Alma’s Nick Fletcher dropped the routine play, allowing McMunn to score and leaving Tucker safe at second base.

The Red Devils added five more in the top of the third on five hits and two free bases. It started when Jones drew a one-out walk to begin a string of seven-straight batters to reach base safely. Tucker singled to left to set up an RBI double by Derek St. Clair.

Brandon Hickingbotham was hit for the second time in the game to load the bases, and D.J. Scott singled to left to score Tucker. St. Clair scored on a wild pitch and Laderrious Perry smacked a two-RBI single to straightaway center field to cap the inning’s scoring and force an Alma pitching change.

Courtland McDonald then singled to put runners on the corners and still just one out, but Mallison and McMunn popped up in the infield to end the rally.

Alma got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third due to a two-run error by McMunn. St. Clair gave up a leadoff walk of Alma’s nine-hole hitter, then gave up a single to start the third. After a strikeout, St. Clair walked another batter to load the bases.

He then got just what Jacksonville needed, a perfect double-play grounder to the base side of Mallison, who scooped the ball and dished to McMunn for the first out, but McMunn threw way wide of Hickingbotham at first, allowing two runs to score and leaving another runner in scoring position. But St. Clair got the next batter to fly out to McDonald in center field to end the inning.

Jacksonville then put its first seven batters on base in the top of the fourth before recording three-straight outs.

Again Jones drew a leadoff walk to start the rally. Tucker hit a sacrifice grounder to third, but the throw was wild, allowing Jones to score and leaving Tucker safe at third. St. Clair walked and stole second, setting up a two-RBI base hit to right field by Hickingbotham that made it 10-2.

Scott got his second hit of the game, a slow grounder to first in which he out-ran the fielder to the bag. Perry then walked to load the bases and Hickingbotham scored on a wild pitch. Scott scored when a pickoff throw to first to get Perry sailed into foul territory and out to right field. Perry then scored from third on a sacrifice grounder to second base by McDonald, but McDonald was also safe on another bad throw. McDonald then stole second and scored on another errant throw to set the final margin.

Scott was the only player in the game with multiple base hits, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI.

St. Clair gave up two hits and zero earned runs while striking out nine and walking three in four innings of work.

Jacksonville, 4-3, played yesterday in the second round and finishes tournament play today. Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.