Friday, June 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville juniors top Cabot again

Leader sportswriter

The Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion team jumped out to a six-run lead against the Centennial Bank Junior team before rain put a halt to play. But after the delay, Jacksonville held off Cabot’s fourth-inning rally to win 7-4 in four innings Thursday at Dupree Park.

Cabot leadoff hitter Brian Tillery scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning on a passed ball, but the Jacksonville Juniors (2-2) answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The Chevy Boys had two fly outs to begin the bottom of the first, but Quentin Stallard singled with two outs, and Foster Rash reached on an error in center field the following at-bat. Axton Ramick drove both runners in with a single, giving Jacksonville a 2-1 lead.

Caleb Anderson scored again for Jacksonville in the bottom of the second before rain put about a half-hour delay to the game. Play resumed with two outs and Jayden Loving on first base, and Gwatney Chevrolet leading 3-1.

The first at-bat after the delay, Peyton Williams reached first base on an error by the Cabot pitcher, and the next at-bat, Stallard hit a two-RBI standup double to center field, driving in Loving and Williams to up the Jacksonville lead to 5-1.

Rash, who started on the mound for Jacksonville, followed with a double to the left-field fence that scored Stallard and furthered the Chevy Boys’ lead to 6-1. Cameron Leonard entered the game as Rash’s courtesy runner, and with Ramick at the plate, Leonard advanced to third on a passed ball. Ramick struck out swinging for what would’ve been the third out of the inning, but the ball got by the Cabot catcher. As Ramick made it safely to first base, Leonard scored to give Jacksonville a 7-1 cushion.

Neither team scored in the third inning. Jacksonville pulled Rash off the mound after the third inning and replaced him with Williams, and the Gwatney relief pitcher struggled with his control. Cabot’s first five batters in the fourth inning reached base safely on one walk, three hit batters and a bunt that left that batter safe because of an E1 on the throw to first.

Nicholas Belden scored Cabot’s second run on that bunt by Blake Buffalo, and Jacob Caswell scored Centennial Bank’s third run on a wild pitch, which made it 7-3 Jacksonville. Michael Crumbly drove in the final run of the inning with a sac fly to deep left field, scoring Tillery, who was plunked three batters earlier.

Jacksonville loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, but the game was called immediately after because the two-hour time limit expired.

It’s Jacksonville’s second win of the summer over Cabot (0-4), but this game was more competitive than the Chevy Boys’ 12-2 win over Centennial Bank during the Memorial Day Tournament at Burns Park.

“Today we played well,” said Gwatney Junior coach Chuck Winer. “We hit the ball a little more than usual. The pitchers just have to throw more strikes and stay focused through the whole game, and that’s really about all we got to do with these guys is just get them a tad bit tougher.

“They’re on the edge. They’ve got a chance and they can be pretty good, but they’ve got to do it within themselves.”

The rain made it tough to pitch for both teams Thursday, but considering that, Winer thought his starting pitcher did well in his three innings on the mound.

“He threw well,” Winer said of Rash. “He threw a lot of strikes, struggled with the rain, of course, like everybody else – the ball wet and things like that. But overall he didn’t do bad. He did what we asked him to, throw strikes.”

Rash gave up two hits and struck out two en route to the win. Stallard was the only player for either team with multiple hits. He was 2 for 2 with a single, double, walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.