SPORTS>>Gwatney sweeps Sylvan Hills
Leader sports editor
The Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion baseball program got the season off to a fine start Thursday, pulling off a Class A and AAA sweep of long-time nemesis Sylvan Hills at Dupree Park.
The Bruins were a bit short-handed with a few players participating in the Sylvan Hills High School spring football scrimmage, but the win was a good one nonetheless for Jacksonville.
“The thing I liked the most about it was the kids that had up and down seasons on the mound in high school pitched really well,” Jacksonville head coach Bob Hickingbotham said. You also have to like how few mistakes we made. Honestly that’s been a big problem for us in recent years, but it looked like they wanted to be there when that ball was put in play.”
A big first inning by Jacksonville’s A team was challenged later in the opening game, but in the end the Gwatney team held on for a 9-7 season-opening victory over Sylvan Hills Thursday night at Dupree Park.
Jacksonville A coach Travis Lyda liked what he saw from his lineup. “I have to say something good about all of them because every single one of them did their job tonight,” Lyda said. “We got every kid in the lineup out there and they all did their job.”
Jacksonville scored five runs on four hits and two Bruin errors in the bottom of the opening frame, and answered every challenge as the game progressed. A.J. Allen’s two-RBI double to right field highlighted the opening inning for Gwatney and drove in the final two runs of the frame.
Terrell Browna and Tyler Wisdom started things off with back-to-back base hits. Seth Tomboli then bunted, but put it in such a place that he was safe at first and left the bases loaded. Caleb Mitchell then walked to drive in the first run. Jeffrey Tillman then put down the second perfectly placed bunt of the inning that scored Wisdom and left the bases loaded.
With one out, AJ Allen hit a line drive to right field to score two runs, and Stephen Swaggerty reached on an error that also scored a run.
“We had a little bit of a miscommunication on the Tillman’s bunt,” Lyda said. “Wisdom missed the sign, but he made up for his mental mistake with hustle. It didn’t hurt that the bunt was perfect either. That’s execution and that’swhat you have to do to beat a team that is so fundamentally sound year in and year out.”
No one scored in the second, but the Bruins pulled closer in the top of the third. Ty Van Schoyck singled to start the inning for Sylvan Hills and scored when a ground ball by Nathan Eller took a funny hop and got between Gwatney third baseman Seth Tomboli’s legs. Blake Evans then singled to centerfield to score Eller and make the score 5-2. Jacksonville not only got those two runs back, but added one in the bottom of the same frame. With one out, Mitchell started the rally with a single to left field. Tillman followed with a single to center andClayton Fenton singled left to drive inboth runs. Fenton later scored on a groundout by Swaggerty.
Sylvan Hills made it 8-4 with two runs inthe fourth. TC Squires’ single was followed by a double to right field by Van Schoyck that put runners on second and third. Evans then singled to center to drive in both base runners. Jacksonville scored its final run with three straight singles by Wisdom, Tomboli and Mitchell, Mitchell’s hit driving in Wisdom for the 9-4 lead.
The Bruins added three in the fifth on just two base hits. Eller was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Evans singled. VanSchoyck reached on an error at third before Cody Cormeter and Casey Cerrato walked. Eric McKinney then singled to centerfield to drive in the final two runs of the game.
Jacksonville got a walk by Shelby Wilcox, a double by Hayden Simpson and a walk by Brown to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. The rally and game was thwarted by the two-hour time limit. Jacksonville moved to 1-0 while the Bruins dropped to 1-1.
Both teams will participate in the North Little Rock class A tournament this weekend.