Tuesday, June 07, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville’s Junior team holds off CAC

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion team picked up its third win of the season Monday, holding off CAC for an 8-7 victory at Dupree Park’s Hickingbotham Field.

The Chevy Boys jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first two innings before control problems helped the Mustangs climb back into the game.

CAC actually scored first in the top of the first inning on two hits and a walk, but the lead didn’t last long.

Jacksonville catcher Kameron Whitmore was hit by CAC’s first pitch and he stole second base. Jayden Loving then doubled down the line in left field to drive in Gwatney’s first run.

Loving moved to third base when CAC threw home to try to get Whitmore, and Caden Sample’s grounderto shortstop scored the run from third base.

After another groundout to third base by Foster Rash, it was CAC that struggled with control. Axton Ramick, Joe Cummings and Braelyn Preston drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Ramick and Cummings then scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball for a 4-1 lead.

Loving got a pop-up and a strikeout to start the top of the second inning on the mound before hitting the CAC leadoff hitter. One wild pitch and one passed ball advanced the runner to third. Loving got the next batter to drill a pitch into the dirt right in front of home plate, where Whitmore fielded it and tagged the runner trying to score for the final out.

Gwatney nine-hole hitter Jonathan Smith drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the second inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Whitmore. Loving and Sample then hit back-to-back singles, with Sample’s shot to left field scoring Smith from second base and leaving runners on the corners.

Sample stole second without a throw, and Rash’s grounder to short scored Loving and left Sample at third.

Ramick then hit an RBI single and Sample scored to put Gwatney up 7-1.

CAC scored twice in the top of the third, and Jacksonville was fortunate it wasn’t more. The Mustangs got their first five batters on base, starting with a leadoff walk. The next batter singled to put runners on the corners, but the trail runner was thrown out by Whitmore trying to steal second base.

Loving hit the next batter, and that was followed by an error at shortstop that scored the runner from third and left another in scoring position.

That run scored on a single, but Loving got the next two batters to fly out to right field and go down swinging to get out of the jam.

Jacksonville went down in order in the bottom of the third, and CAC added another run in the top of the fourth off relief pitcher Isaiah Cain.

The Gwatney reliever was in good shape after getting the first two batters to ground out, but two singles sandwiched a walk to cut Gwatney’s lead to 7-4.

Another error at shortstop put two runners in scoring position, but Jacksonville got out of the jam when Whitmore chased down a wild pitch and threw to Cain for the out at home when CAC attempted to score.

Jacksonville added what turned out to be a very important run in the bottom of the fourth. Whitmore was again hit by the first pitch of the inning. Cain then laid down a perfect bunt towards first base.

He beat the throw for a single, and the throw was way off the mark and sailed into right field, allowing Whitmore to score all the way from first base.

But after Sample walked to put two runners on with no outs, the next three batters all struck out, leaving Gwatney with an 8-4 advantage.

Cain struck out the first batter of the fifth inning, and then lost command of his pitches. He walked four of the next five and gave up a single that pulled CAC to within 8-6. Rash replaced him on the mound with one out and the bases loaded, and walked in another run. He then got a grounder to short where Smith threw home for the force. Rash then ended the game with a strikeout after time expired.

The win makes Junior Chevy Boys 3-4 overall and 2-0 in district play.