Friday, April 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> PA no match for Red Devil baseball team

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got two surprisingly easy wins over Pulaski Academy Tuesday at Dupree Park. The Diamond Devils hammered the Bruins 12-2 in five innings and 19-4 in four innings for the 5A-Central Conference sweep.

The wins leave Jacksonville squarely in the driver’s seat for the league championship. The Red Devils hold at least a two-game lead over everyone else in the conference, and the tiebreaker over all other two-loss teams.

“I think I can book the rooms (for the state tournament in Harrison) now,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “I wouldn’t before tonight but this should at least get us in.”

Jacksonville scored four runs in the first inning. After an out, Ryan Mallison and Caleb McMunn drew back-to-back walks, and Greg Jones and James Tucker followed that with consecutive RBI base hits. After another out, Brandon Hickingbotham singled to drive in two more runs.

Number nine hitter Laderrious Perry drew a walk to start the second inning, setting up a towering two-run home run by Courtland McDonald that made it 6-0. The next batters went down in order, but Jones ripped a full-count pitch for a double, and an error at third base off Tucker’s bat scored Jones to make it 7-0.

The Bruins scored their two runs on a hit batter, a single and a double in the top of the third, but Jacksonville responded in its half of the inning.

With one out, a pitch hit Perry and McDonald doubled to straightaway center field for his third RBI. However, he re-aggravated a hamstring injury that sidelined him for two games, and came out for the rest of the night, replaced on the base paths by Caleb Smith.

Mallison followed McDonald’s hit with a pop-up to shallow center field, but it was dropped, leaving runners safe at second and third. Smith scored on a passed ball and Mallison crossed the plate after a deep fly ball out to right field by McMunn.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair, who had struck out the first six batters of the game before running into the trouble in the third, quickly regained his form, sitting the Bruins down in order again in the fourth.

Jacksonville (13-5, 8-0) made it a 10-run lead with two walks and a two-RBI base hit by D.J. Scott in the bottom of the fourth inning.

St. Clair closed the show with a 5-3 groundout and two more strikeouts in the top of the fifth. The three hits in the third were the only ones yielded by St. Clair in the game. He finished his five innings of work with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Playing as the visiting team in game two, Jacksonville built a 13-0 lead through the top of the third before giving up three runs in the bottom of the third.

Jacksonville scored two in the first when St. Clair hit a leadoff single, McMunn a one-out, RBI double and Jones an RBI single.

Hickingbotham started the second inning with a leadoff single, followed by a one-out base hit by Smith. St. Clair drove in a run with a single to center field.

Mallison and McMunn hit back-to-back singles before Jones hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center. A pitch hit Tucker, Perry reached on an E6 and Hickingbotham hit a two-RBI double to left field in his second at-bat of the inning. Scott then singled and Smith was hit by a pitch. St. Clair got his second RBI hit of the frame to make it 11-0 before Mallison lined out hard to first base to end the inning.

In the top of the third, McMunn’s leadoff single was followed by RBI doubles by Perry and Hickingbotham for an 11-0 lead.

PA then got four base hits and three runs in the bottom of the third, but Jacksonville answered with six more runs in the fourth on seven base hits, including doubles by St. Clair, Jones and Tucker.

Jacksonville piled up 21 base hits in the nightcap. St. Clair and Hickingbotham went 4 for 4 with two doubles, and McMunn went 4 for 4 with one extra-base hit.

Jacksonville scored in every inning of both games, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Burrows.

“We talked about that before the game,” Burrows said. “That was one of our goals we set for this series and we accomplished it. Other than that one half inning, we played really well. We did a lot of nice things.”