Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SPORTS>>Jacksonville falls to Van Buren, Greenland

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s season has become a one of missed opportunities and close losses. Friday and Saturday were no exceptions for the Red Devils, as they lost Friday to Van Buren 4-3, and dropped a Saturday contest on the road to Greenland 5-4.
The Devils built a 3-0 lead against Van Buren in the top of the first inning, and held the Pointers scoreless until the final frame, when four runs for Van Buren stole the win away from Jacksonville. Saturday’s game with Greenland had a similar outcome, with the Pirates scoring three runs in the final inning to break a 4-2 deficit for the win.

“We’re playing hard enough to stay in the game,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “But not hard enough to finish it off. Some days we give up walks, some days we have errors, but we could cure all of that by getting hits and bringing in scores.”
Jacksonville cashed in on its opportunities in the first inning against Van Buren, scoring all three runs in the frame. Blake Mattison and Adam Ussery both received free trips to first to start the game, and Cameron Hood scored them both on an RBI double. Zack Thomas advanced Hood to third on a SAC pop-up, and Caleb Mitchell singled to drive in Hood for the third run of the inning.

The Red Devils had an opportunity to increase their lead in the top of the third inning when Jason Regnas led off with a triple, but the next three Jacksonville batters struck out, leaving Regnas stranded at third.

Jacksonville’s defense had been solid throughout the game, holding Van Buren to only two hits through the first six innings. But a Pointers’ rally in the bottom of the seventh changed the entire course of the game. Van Buren came away with three hits off of relief pitcher Jordan Payer, who relieved starter Regnas after five innings. The Pointers also cashed in on a walk from Payer and a fielding error by the Red Devils to score the four runs necessary to take the win.

Ussery and Hood both finished the game with two hits for the Red Devils, but it would not be enough. Payer took the loss at the mound after the late rally from Van Buren.

Saturday’s game against Greenland was also closely contested, with the Pirates taking an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before a score for Jacksonville in the top of the third inning and two more in the sixth inning allowed the Devils to take a 3-2 lead heading into the final inning.

Jacksonville added one more run in the seventh, but Greenland took advantage of fatigue from starting Red Devils pitcher Mike Harmon. The sophomore rightey threw solid for the first six innings, but had to be relieved in the final inning. The Pirates didn’t let fresh pitching slow them down, rallying for three runs to overtake the Devils.

“We’re kind of snake-bit right now,” Burrows said. “We had five line drive hits (against Greenland) that were caught that could have been hits. We’ve made a few mistakes, but not swinging the bat has been a big part of it. We have to play tougher and compete harder if we don’t want to keep on giving up these one run and two run losses.”

The two losses moves Jacksonville’s record to 5-8 overall on the season, while the conference record remains at 1-3. The Red Devils played Jonesboro on the road in a pair of 6A-East games last night after Leader deadlines.