Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

SPORTS >> Jacksonville rallies past Benton in tourney final

BY RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

IN SHORT: The Gwatney Class A team beat Benton 4-3 on the game’s last at bat to close its tournament.

They saved their best for last, and it was just enough for Jacksonville’s Gwatney A American Legion team to close out their tournament Sunday with a 4-3 win over Benton.

Gwatney scored one run in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a Ben-ton error, but Benton took the lead in the top of the second and didn’t trail again until the last at bat of the game.

All three of Benton’s runs were unearned. Gwatney committed three errors in the inning, including two with two outs that gave Sports Shop three runs and a 3-1 lead.

Gwatney got one run back in the bottom of the second, but blew a golden opportunity for a big inning.

Benton pitcher Chase John-son walked Jacksonville’s seven, eight and nine hole hitters to start the inning. Leadoff hitter Adam Ussery then struck out, and Shane Graham hit into a 5-2 fielder’s choice.

Cameron Hood then singled to score Devin McMunn from third, but Graham rounded second base and headed to third with Cody Spears still standing there. Graham tried to stop and got caught in a rundown. Spears broke for home during the rundown and was thrown out to end the inning.

Benton returned the favor by blowing a crucial scoring opportunity in the top of the seventh and last inning.

Bo Mitcham hit a one-out double down the left-field line, but made a big base-running error on the next at bat.

Nine-hole hitter Alce Mann executed a perfect bunt that left him safe at first, but Mitcham tried to stretch two bases out of it and was easily thrown out at home. It certainly cost Benton a run because leadoff hitter Justin Mills singled on the next at bat. Justin Pfieffer then popped up to second base to end the inning.

Jacksonville took the lead and the game in the bottom of the frame. Seth Tomboli fell behind 1-2 in the count, but responded by bouncing a line drive off the fence in centerfield. He stretched the stand-up double into a triple by sliding in just safe at third base.

Benton elected to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. Ussery then doubled to right field to score Tomboli and secure the victory.

While base-running errors cost each team runs, Jacksonville tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with a heads-up play on the path by Cameron Hood.

Hood singled to lead off the inning. Adrian Baker grounded out to third base, and Hood rounded second on the throw from third to first.

The throw back to third was wild, and Hood scored from third.

Graham got the win on the mound. He gave up six hits, struck out three, walked one and gave up zero earned runs in the complete-game effort.

Hood and Tomboli, as well as Benton’s Mills, were the only players with multiple hits in the game. Tomboli went 2 for 2 with a walk and a triple.

Gwatney went 2-1 overall in the tournament. It beat Woodlawn 10-7 Friday, then lost 10-3 to Sheridan Saturday in a game that turned ugly after a collision at home plate.