Leader Blues

Monday, April 09, 2007

SPORTS >>Jacksonville falls to Searcy

IN SHORT: The Lions dominated the Red Devils in two 6A-East Conference matchups on Tuesday night at the newly-opened Fletcher Sullards Annex.

Leader sportswriter

Searcy’s Easton Valentine showed little love to Red Devils on Tuesday evening at the Fletcher Sullards sports Annex on the campus of SHS. The senior shortstop held a clinic against four different Jacksonville pitchers, going a perfect 6 for 6, including a pair of home runs in the opening game, and two doubles in the nightcap during the Lions’ 22-1 and 17-2 twin 6A-East shellackings.

In all, Valentine drove in nine runs during the course of the evening, leading the Red Devils to have a revolving door at the pitcher’s mound.

Not even a delay for rain storms in the middle of game two could slow Searcy’s momentum, as the Lions took a 10-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning when the storms hit to add seven more scores during what was literally Jacksonville’s longest night of the season.

The first game started out promisingly enough for the Devils, with Adam Ussery singling from the two-hole in the top of the first, followed by a single for Jason Regnas. The two advanced on an error for Zach Thomas to load the bases. Hopes of an early score went away for Jacksonville when Terrell Brown hit into a fielder’s choice with two outs, leaving three potential scores on at the end of the turn.

Starting Jacksonville pitcher Jordan Payer started with a strikeout on Lion lead-off Adam Robertson, but a walk for following batter Kyle Taylor was the first step of a disastrous opening inning, as Valentine would come from fifth in the lineup to knock his first of two blasts over the right field wall.

After a steady stretching of the score in the opening three frames, the Lions would deliver the coup de grace in the bottom of the fourth, with nine runs to increase their already stout 13-1 lead to a 22-1 advantage, leaving Jacksonville with only the prospect of a better showing in the nightcap.

Although the Red Devils came in to Tuesday’s games with only a 1-5 conference record, they have played very competitively in the 6A-East, with a near-upset over second-place Jonesboro last week.

While the Lions were the clear favorites, the lop-sidedness of the entire evening was somewhat of a shock, as Searcy took both decisions in five innings.

Starting Searcy pitcher Kyle Taylor sent Jacksonville three up and three down in the top of the second, but Caleb Mitchell was able to generate the Devils’ only score in the opener when he singled to drive in Ussery in the top of the third. Jacksonville grabbed three of its total six hits in the frame, with a single for Regnas, who was left on when a fly to first from Brown retired the side. Taylor took the win in four innings, as Anthony Dillon closed for Searcy by sending Ussery, Regnas and Mitchell away 1-2-3.

It was more of the same in game two. Searcy started things off as the visitors, scoring five runs off of starting pitcher Regnas, and adding one more in the second and two in the third before another late-game runaway ran the score up once again.

With the Red Devils using five of their pitchers in the opener, Regnas was forced to go the distance against the hit-happy Lions in game two. The most disastrous inning for the Devil hurlers occurred during inning four of the opener, as sub Eric Berry gave way to Brown after the first Lions’ score of the frame. Brown’s luck wasn’t any better, as he watched four hits go by to result in six quick scores. Thomas came from behind the plate to the mound at that point, but gave up a two-run home run to Andy Garlington, followed by two more singles before he was finally able to strike out Anthony Dillon and Justin Wayne.

The losses give Jacksonville a 5-12 overall record and 1-7 record in the 6A-East. Searcy improved to 15-3 overall and 6-2 in conference, moving in to take second in the standings over Jonesboro.

Jacksonville played Little Rock Fair at home last night after Leader deadlines, and will return to action in another non-conference matchup against Oak Grove Monday.