Friday, May 08, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville completes perfect run

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team outscored its opponents by a combined 42-0 this week. The Red Devils closed conference play with 19-0 and 15-0 wins over McClellan on Wednesday, giving the team a perfect 14-0 league record and an outright 5A-Central Conference championship.

The Red Devils followed that with an 8-0 win over Catholic in a nonconference game at Dupree Park on Thursday.

“We knocked it around hard for two innings,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “And that was against Catholic’s one. We swung the bats pretty well.”

Jacksonville also pitched well on Thursday. Wednesday’s opponent allowed Burrows to throw several other players, many of whom don’t pitch, in the conference finale. That meant the top two pitchers were available for Thursday’s matchup.

Derek St. Clair started the game and pitched four innings. He struck out eight while walking two and hitting one batter, with no base hits. James Tucker threw the last three innings, giving up one hit while striking out one and walking none.

Catholic got one runner to third base after a Jacksonville error in the third inning. No other Rocket made it past first base. Tucker’s only base runner allowed was caught stealing by catcher Greg Jones, as the hit batter. St. Clair picked off one of the batters he walked and got a fly-out on the next pitch after his other walk to end the inning.

Leadoff hitter Courtland McDonald went 3 for 4 with three stolen bases while Jones went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. St. Clair also went 2 for 4 at the plate as the Red Devils piled up 12 base hits in Thursday’s win.

“We played really well but we can’t rest on that,” said Burrows. “Our job now is to work our butts off and get ready for the games that mean something.”

On Wednesday, Brandon Hickingbotham threw the first inning of game one and got the win. Ryan Mallison, the team’s second baseman, started game two and picked up his first win of the year on the mound.

Other non-regular pitchers who saw their first action on the bump were Laderrious Perry, McDonald and Jones.

For going undefeated in league play, Jacksonville is awarded a first-round playoff game at 10 a.m. Thursday in Harrison. They will take on the four seed from the 5A-East, which will be settled today with a makeup doubleheader between Valley View and Greene County Tech. Valley View is currently atop the league standings while GCT is third. Batesville and Nettleton are the other two East teams that will be in the playoffs, but today’s outcome will determine the final standings.