SPORTS >>Mustangs and Bears defeated by Devils
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville earned a trio of fastpitch conference wins this week. The Lady Devils got an easy sweep of Forrest City Tuesday night in a 6A-East fastpitch doubleheader at Dupree Park, winning by scores of 12-0 and 8-0. On Thursday they traveled to Sherwood to take an 8-2 victory over Sylvan Hills to improve to 10-2 in conference play and 17-4 overall.
Jacksonville pitcher Jessica Bock carried no hitters into the six inning of each game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Although the no-no was broken up both times, she still struck out 14 and 12 batters respectively in two complete-game shutouts.
Jacksonville took game one as the visitors on the strength of 15 base hits, 11 of which came from four players. Gabby Hart, Bailey Herlacher and Raven Pickett each went 3 of 5 at the plate, while senior first baseman Kayla Williams finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
Hart also drove in three runs from her cleanup spot to lead the offensive onslaught.
Jacksonville led just 1-0 through three innings. After adding two runs in the fourth, the Lady Devils broke the game open with five runs in the fifth inning.
Hart set the tone for the big inning with a leadoff home run over the fence in straightaway centerfield.
Jacksonville made it 9-0 in the top of the sixth, and set the final margin with three runs in the seventh.
Forrest City threatened to score in the sixth inning when Brittany Meredith hit a hard groundball to right field to lead off the frame. Three batters later, Ikeshia Chism hit a line drive down the third base line that put runners on the corners with two outs, but Bock fanned Whitney Stewart to keep the shutout intact.
Jacksonville didn’t wait as long to take command of game two. The Lady Devils put three runs on the board in the first inning with the help of three Forrest City errors.
Rochelle Holder led off with a bunt single and Bock walked. The two runners moved up on a sacrifice grounder by Ellen Bur. Hart hit a high, deep fly ball to centerfield that landed in and bounced out of the glove of the Lady Mustang outfielder.
Holder scored on the sacrifice, and Bock’s courtesy runner Abbie Hill came around when the Forrest City pitcher mishandled the throw back into the infield. Hart reached third on the play and scored on the next at bat on Paula Burr’s sacrifice bunt.
Jacksonville failed to score in the second inning. It had a chance to blow it open in the third. A single by Ellen Burr was followed by an RBI triple by Hart. Hart scored on the play when the throw to third went astray. The inning came to an abrupt end when Herlacher and Pickett’s courtesy runner were each caught stealing by FC catcher Chism.
Alana Whatley made it 6-0 in the fourth. She led off with a single, and scored two batters later when Holder’s bunt drew a bad throw to first base.
The Lady Devils set the final margin in the fifth inning. Paula Burr walked and scored on a hit by Herlacher. Herlacher then scored on a hit by Pickett.
Thursday night the Lady Bears trailed 2-0 through four innings before rallying to tie the score in the bottom of the fifth. Four base hits in the frame got the two runners across the plate.
Jacksonville made sure it didn’t stay close for long, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth and three more in the seventh to seal the win.
Elsewhere in league play, Marion beat West Memphis Thursday 8-1 to improve to 13-0 in league play and locked up the conference championship. Jacksonville hosts Marion Tuesday and will make up its rained out meeting with Sylvan Hills Wednesday.
Marion beat Jacksonville by one run in the conference opener for the Lady Devils. Jacksonville can secure second place and a No. 2 seed in the state tournament by winning one of its two remaining games.
West Memphis is 10-3 and split a doubleheader with the Lady Devils two weeks ago. Jacksonville owns that tiebreaker on margin of victory.