SPORT>> Gwatney wins A tourney crown
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville’s Gwateny Chevrolet class A American Legion team became the first Gwatney A team to win its annual preseason tournament, beating Benton 10-1 Sunday night to secure the tournament title.
Jacksonville had lost earlier in the tournament to Benton on Friday. They went on to beat North Little Rock on Saturday and Sylvan Hills early Sunday to secure a spot in the championship game on the tiebreaker format.
NLR and Sylvan Hills also went 2-1 in the tournament, but lost the tiebreaker due to head-to-head competition with Jacksonville.
In Sunday night’s championship game, Benton helped Jacksonville early and often throughout the evening. The Sports Shop team committed nine errors and gave up eight unearned runs, playing nothing like the most dominant team of the first tournament through the first three games.
While Benton was kicking the ball around in the field, Jacksonville’s Brian Thurman was making quick work of Benton’s batting order.
Thurman went the five innings and gave up just two hits and no earned runs.
Adam Ussery walked in the second at bat of the first inning. He stole second base and moved to third on an error at shortstop. He then scored on a wild pitch during Zach James’ at bat to give Gwatney a 1-0 lead.
Matt Crane led off the second inning by reaching on an error at third base. Matt Williams singled two batters later and another E5 off the bat of Thurman scored Crane easily.
In the third, Zach Thomas and Zach James were hit in consecutive at bats to start the inning.
Matt Crane got another error at third that scored one run, while Beau Flynn hit a sacrifice grounder to second to score James for Jacksonville’s first earned run of the game.
Benton committed three straight errors on Jacksonville’s first three at bats of the fourth inning. Thurman hit a grounder to short that was bobbled and thrown wildly to first. Leadoff hitter Jake Ussery hit a grounder to first that was kicked and Adam Ussery’s grounder to second was simply missed.
One run scored on Adam Ussery’s at bat, another came in two batters later when James hit a fly ball deep to left field.
That made it 6-0, but Benton finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth after holding Jacksonville score less in the top of the fifth for the first time in the game.
After cutting Gwatney’s lead to 6-1, Jacksonville put together its best inning of the game in the sixth.
The two Ussery’s walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Thomas then singled to left field for one RBI.
Adam Ussery scored two batters later on a wild pitch. James came in on Benton’s fourth error at third base, this time off the bat of Blake Mattison. Another error at second base scored Mattison to set the final margin.
Jacksonville got just three base hits. Benton picked up five.
The A squad played the first game of a class A and AAA doubleheader against Vilonia Tuesday night, and will be back in action at home on Thursday evening.