Saturday, May 07, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils rolling into playoffs

Leader sports editor

The Red Devil baseball team enters the state tournament on a nice roll. Jacksonville (15-12, 11-3) has won 10-straight games and hasn’t lost since April 7. It closed the regular season this week with an easy sweep of McClellan on Tuesday, and then a 6-1 victory over East two seed Batesville at Dupree Park on Thursday.

But they have a tough draw in the state tournament with Greenbrier. The Panthers will throw Hunter Milligan in the first round. Milligan is a Top-20 prospect in the nation, and rated as high as the No. 3 overall prospect in the nation by one baseball scouting publication.

He’s a 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefty whose fastball is in the low to mid-90s, and breaking ball only drops to the low to mid-80s.

“It’s the toughest draw in the whole tournament,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “But we’re going to go play it. Anything can happen. Hawk (Jacksonville’s own 6-4 lefty Brandon Hawkins) and (Caleb) McMunn both threw real well Thursday. Hawkins hadn’t pitched in three weeks before this, other than bullpen stuff. Hopefully he’ll be back to form like he was a few weeks ago when he was throwing really well. McMunn’s tough to hit, too, when he’s under control, and he did a good job tonight.”

Hawkins threw the first four innings against Batesville for the win. McMunn threw the final three. Batesville’s run was unearned.

In Tuesday’s conference finale, Jacksonville won by scores of 18-0 and 15-0.

Game one went four innings while game two lasted just three. Both games were full of walks and hit batters, but leadoff hitter Tyson Flowers went 3 for 3 with a double to lead game one offensively. Catcher Javan Wakefield hit a three-run home run, a triple and scored two runs to lead the Red Devils in game two.

The Red Devils and Panthers face off at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Harrison.

The two teams opened the season against each other in the Red Devil Classic in early March. Greenbrier won that game 14-4 after scoring seven runs in the first inning on three hits and five walks.