Leader Blues

Thursday, July 27, 2006

SPORTS>>Gwatney heartbroken in 11th

Leader sports writer

Jacksonville and Russellville turned in one of the most exciting games of the year Thursday night in the opening round of the Class AAA American Legion Zone 4 tournament. After 11 innings, it was Russellville that plated the winning run in the bottom of the second extra frame to seal a 6-5 win at North Little Rock’s Burns Park.

With one out in the 11th, Russellville’s Drew Seibenmorgan walked and moved to third on a single. He then scored on a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield by Josh Bogard for the winning run.

Jacksonville appeared to seize the momentum in the bottom of the tenth when an incredible play by left fielder Neil Hatcher thwarted a serious Russellville threat.

With one out, Russellville’s Caleb McGhee walked and Brandon Brown singled to put runners on first and second. Jeremy Cox then hit a line drive to left center. Hatcher ran the ball down and made a sliding catch, popped up and fired to his cutoff man Jordan Payer as McGhee bolted for third. Payer’s relay throw to Zach Thomas was right on target and got McGhee sliding head first into the base to complete the 7-6-5 double play.

Gwatney squandered the momentum by striking out three straight times in the top of the 11th.

Jacksonville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Tim Payne led off with a single to right field and moved to second on an infield single by Thomas. The runners moved up on a passed ball, and scored on a sacrifice grounder by Tyler Uptergrove.

Russellville answered with two runs in the bottom of the second to claim the lead.

Both runs were unearned. After an error with two outs left two runners on base, Jim Thompson tripled to right field to drive in both runners.

Cogswell Motors added a run in the fourth without a base hit. Jacksonville pitcher Tim Payne hit Bogard to lead things off. Thompson flew out to right field and Jeremy Cox walked. McGhee then grounded out and moved the runners up, after which Payne balked a run home to give Cogswell a 3-1 lead.

Jacksonville tied it with two runs in the top of the sixth inning. Trey Smith reached on an error at shortstop to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Payne was hit by a pitch, and Zach James followed with an infield single. An error by the pitcher left Zach Thomas safe at first and allowed Smith to score. Tyler Uptergrove then hit a fly ball to right field. Payne hesitated, but then darted for home. The throw easily beat Payne to the plate, but sailed high over the catcher’s head, leaving everyone safe.

Russellville made it a two-run game again in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Payne gave up a double and walk to lead things off before being removed by Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. Payne threw six complete innings, giving up nine hits, one earned run while striking out four and walking six.

Smith replaced Payne and fanned the next two batters, but an error at third base allowed the two runs to score.

Jacksonville chipped away by scoring one run in the eighth and one in the ninth to force the extra innings.

In the eighth, Thomas doubled with two outs, and Jeremy Williams advanced on a passed ball after striking out. That moved Thomas to third, and he scored on a passed ball before Jordan Payer struck out to end the inning.

In the ninth, Cameron Hood led off by getting hit by the first pitch. He stole second on the very next pitch, and moved to third on a sac grounder by Hatcher. A sacrifice fly by Smith drove in the run to tie the game and force the extra innings.

The loss puts Gwatney into the losers bracket and a 10 a.m. game today against last night’s loser between Sylvan Hills and Maumelle.

Russellville played North Little Rock last night after Leader deadlines.