SPORTS>> Gwatney secures rematch for title
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville class A American Legion team earned a trip to the championship game of the North Little Rock Memorial weekend tournament. The young Gwatney team lost its opening game, but won its next two to advance to Tuesday night’s title game against Maumelle.
Maumelle was the team that beat Jacksonville in the tournament opener, but wins Monday against Benton and Conway got Jacksonville a rematch.
Two teams backed out of the tournament when rain canceled play on Sunday, helping pave the way for Jacksonville’s comeback. But winning twice, once against a team it had lost to the week before, still impressed Gwatney coach Travis Lyda.
“We lost 12-1 to Conway last week, and these kids played like that game never happened,” Lyda said. “They were focused and they had some confidence from beating Benton earlier in the day.”
Jordan Payer, the same pitcher that took the loss to Conway last week, got the 6-1 win on the mound Monday. He worked out of trouble in the very first inning, then worked with a lead the rest of the way after Jacksonville put up three runs in the bottom of the first.
Conway opened with a leadoff double, but Payer got a strikeout, a fielder’s choice grounder and another K to close the door on the rally.
“They got some hits off of him, but he worked out of trouble every time,” Lyda said. “He’d get a strikeout or we’d turn a double play every time they’d make a threat. He threw a great game.”
Jacksonville responded with two walks to open up the bottom half of the inning. Jake and Adam Ussery each got free passes. Tyler Uptergrove hit into a fielder’s choice that left runners on first and third. Zach James then got an RBI double to centerfield. Scott Bolen followed with an RBI single and Zach Thomas hit a sacrifice fly to score James for a 3-0 Jacksonville lead.
Both teams added a run in the second, and James closed out the scoring with a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fourth that scored Adam Ussery and Uptergrove to set the final margin.
James went 2 for 3 with three RBIs to lead the offensive attack.
Earlier in the day, Jacksonville beat Benton 3-1, scoring one run in the first and two in the second inning. That was all the runs pitcher Brian Thurman needed. Thurman gave up one earned run while holding Benton Sports Shop to just two base hits in seven innings.
The win ran Gwatney’s record to 3-2 on the season. They lost 5-0 to Maumelle on Saturday. They will be back in action this weekend, hosting their own A tournament at Dupree Park.
Look for information on that tournament, as well as Tuesday’s championship matchup with Maumelle in Saturday’s edition of the Leader.