Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville beats Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville-Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion team got the season underway with a victory in the Memorial Day Classic at Burns Park, but dropped its next two games of pool play in failing to qualify for Monday’s final round of bracket play.

The Chevy Boys opened the tournament with a five-inning, 12-2 win over Cabot-Centennial Bank on Saturday.

“We didn’t hit the ball extremely well in the tournament, but we played OK for a team that hasn’t’ been able to practice,” said Gwatney Chevrolet Junior coach Chuck Winer. “They’re excited to be here and they’re giving good effort most of the time. As long as that keeps up they could be pretty good.”

Jacksonville only had five base hits, but Cabot struggled to find the strike zone, walking eight Jacksonville batters over the first three innings.

The first walk was issued to the first batter, Kameron Whitmore, in just four pitches. Trent Toney then singled on the first pitch he saw to put two on with no outs. Caden Sample also singled to drive in a run, and Foster Rash followed suit with a third-straight base hit and another RBI.

Axton Ramick then walked to load the bases, and Joe Cummings hit a fly ball to deep right field to score Sample for the third and final run of the inning.

Jacksonville sent six batters to the plate in the bottom of the second inning. Three struck out and the other three scored. Nine-hole hitter Jaden Loving drew a leadoff walk for Gwatney to start the frame. With one out, Toney got his second base hit, this one scored Loving to make the score 4-0.

Sample then drew a walk, and both base runners came around to score on passed balls and wild pitches over the next two at-bats.

Cabot remained scoreless in the top of the third, and Jacksonville added six more runs in the bottom half on one hit and five more walks.

Toney went 2 for 2 at the plate to lead the Chevy Boys offensively. Whitmore, Sample and Jonathan Smith got the other three hits for Jacksonville.

Centennial Bank scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Nick Belden got a leadoff base hit before Eugene Germer reached on an error at second base. Jacob Coaklin then singled to drive in Cabot’s first run.

Gage Morrow became the fourth-straight batter to reach base with a base hit to right field. Coy Lovercheck walked and Coaklin scored on a groundout by Kevin Lenahan to set the final margin.

Jacksonville played Benton Sports Shop on Saturday and lost 10-0. The Chevy Boys managed just two base hits, one each by Whitmore and Cummings, and scarcely threatened to score. Jacksonville did get two runners on with two outs in the third inning. Whitmore got a one-out base hit and Sample drew a two-out walk, but the inning ended on a called strike three.

Caleb Dorsey went the distance on the mound for the Sports Shop win.

On Sunday, Gwatney hit a little better, but still struggled to produce runs in a 4-1 loss to Little Rock. The Chevy Boys had as many hits after two batters on Sunday as it did all of Saturday’s game. Whitmore and Toney got consecutive base hits, and Whitmore scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Rash.

Jacksonville got just three more hits the rest of the game. Whitmore and Toney each went 2 for 3 while Cummings added the other base hit for the Chevy Boys.

Jacksonville’s early 1-0 lead only lasted until the bottom of the first, when the Diamondbacks’ first three batters scored without a base hit. Two errors and a hit batter is how the trio reached base. A two-run base hit and a sacrifice grounder followed to give Little Rock a 3-1 lead.

The game’s only other run came on three base hits in the bottom of the third inning.

Cabot lost its two remaining games to Little Rock and Benton Sports Shop as well, falling to 0-3 to start the season.

Cabot coach David Smith has several players with very little American Legion or high school experience, and isn’t discouraged by the slow start.

“We coaches have to do our job and put players in the best position to succeed,” said Smith. “We’re going to have to do a lot of teaching with these young kids. They want to play, and if they stay receptive to learning they will get better.”

Centennial Bank and Gwatney Chevrolet will meet again on Thursday for a Junior/Senior doubleheader. The junior teams take the field at Dupree Park at 6 p.m. while Cabot’s AA team will face the Jacksonville Seniors at approximately 8 p.m.