Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SPORTS >> Gwatney wins three of four

BY RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

IN SHORT: The Jacksonville AAA team beat Morrilton 6-3 Monday night for its third win in its last four games. They will host the annual 4th of July Classic this weekend before beginning the final stretch of the regular season.

Jacksonville’s AAA baseball team is on a nice upswing after struggling through the first half of the American Legion baseball season. After going 2-1 in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic, with wins over Little Rock Red, 17-0, and Conway, 5-1, and an 8-0 loss to Conway, the Chevy boys came from behind to defeat Morrilton 6-3 Monday night at Dupree Park.

The three wins in the last four games lift Jacksonville’s season record to 7-9 as they head into hosting the annual Gwatney Chevrolet 4th of July Classic that begins Thursday.

“They are starting to play a little better,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hicking-botham said. “We had a bad, bad game against Benton down there in Sheridan, but we’ve had three or four pretty solid games other than that one.”

In Monday’s game, Morrilton grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning by add-ing two runs to the one it scored in the first, but that’s as many as the Cogswell Motors team would get off starting pitcher Casey Winstead.

Winstead settled in, and the Jacksonville bats came alive, starting in the bottom of the third inning.

Leadoff hitter Josh Mansfield singled to start things off. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Neil Hatcher, and scored on an RBI single by Trey Smith. Kyle West then walked, and a pair of pitches got by the catcher to allow Smith to score and cut Jackson-ville’s deficit to one run.

The Gwatney team tied it in the fourth inning. Randy Peeples led off with a bloop single in the infield. Three batters later, and with two outs, Peeples stole second base and scored on a single to right field by Hatcher.

Jacksonville tallied another single run in the bottom of the fifth inning after Winstead sat Morrilton down in order in the top half of the frame.

Kyle West led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Tim Payne. Zach James doubled to right field, but West had to hold up at second to see if the ball would be caught. He only managed third base on the shot to the wall.

Peeples then struck out, but the catcher dropped the ball. Peeples outran the catcher down the first base line, and instead of throwing to first for the out, the catcher turned and tried to pick West off at third. The throw was off, leaving everyone safe and the bases juiced with one out.

Tyler Uptergrove then hit a hard grounder to third base that could have been an easy force at home, but the Morrilton third baseman threw to first, allowing West to score and giving Jacksonville its first lead of the game.

Trey Smith took the mound in relief of Winstead in the sixth inning, and fanned the side in order, bringing Jacksonville back to the plate where it posted the final two runs of the contest.

With two outs and nobody on, West again walked, his third walk of the game with the final two coming on eight combined pitches. Payne was then hit with the first pitch of his at bat, and the two runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball.

James then hit a high pop fly to shallow right field. West and Payne were running throughout the flight of the ball, and when the Morrilton second baseman dropped the ball, both runners had already crossed the plate for the 6-3 lead.

Smith got his fourth straight K to start the seventh, gave up a walk and drew two fly outs to secure the save and the Jacks-onville victory.

Smith and Hatcher led the team with two hits apiece. Winstead got the win, throwing five innings, while giving up five hits and two earned runs. He struck out six Morrilton batters.

The Jacksonville A team also beat Morrilton Monday, taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning and holding on for a 10-9 victory.
Morrilton pitching hit Jack-sonville’s first four batters in the first inning, and all four scored to give the Gwatney team the early cushion.

The A team also hosted a doubleheader against Benton last night after Leader deadlines.

Look for details of these games, and early round details of the 4th of July Classic in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.