SPORTS >>Gwatney hammers Morrilton
By JASON KING
Gwatney Chevrolet entered the American Legion Class A Zone 2 tournament at Maumelle looking to make a statement, and that is exactly what they did with a 17-4 win over Morrilton Thursday during the opening round. The Chevy boys lit up three separate Morrilton pitchers en route to the runaway decision, generating a total of 15 hits, nine of which came during the first two innings.
Jacksonville pitcher Seth Tomboli continues to have an impressive summer, pitching the winner with six hits allowed, one walk and nine strikeouts. Despite throwing at about 75 percent most of the evening, Tomboli bought himself two more innings for later on in the tournament with the run-ruled win.
“It’s about time we had a game like that,” Gwatney coach Travis Lyda said. “I was seriously worried after the way we played on Tuesday, so we needed that. We can’t expect this to happen through the entire tournament, Morrilton is just a really young team. I think we showed why we were the top seed in this zone tonight.”
Gwatney took to the field first as the hosts on the scoreboard, and Tomboli started sending them down right from the start. He struck out two of the first three batters faced in the game to send Jacksonville to the plate for the bottom of the first.
Tyler Wisdom led off for Gwatney with a double, and Terrell Brown matched Wisdom from the two-hole slot with a shot that landed on the other side of Morrilton centerfielder Rich Walls for another double.
Jason Regnas made it three straight doubles for Jacksonville with a fly to the left field wall that would score both Wisdom and Brown to put Gwatney up 2-0. Regnas came in on an error at third base, and Caleb Mitchell and Tomboli made it in on a double from Hayden Simpson for a 5-0 lead entering the second inning.
Morrilton did briefly make a game of it in the top of the second inning. The first three batters of the second inning generated half of the total hits for Morrilton on the evening, with John Cotner’s double to right center sending two runners in for scores. Cotner would come in for the third run later in the inning on a failed attempt at a double play by Gwatney.
Jacksonville added some to the lead in the bottom of the second with runs from Clayton Fenton, Wisdom and Regnas. Fenton tagged on a fly out from Brown, and Regnas followed Wisdom across the plate on a single to left center by Mitchell.
Jacksonville showed themselves as superior from the start of the contest, but the lop-sidedness didn’t come into full effect until the third inning. A fielding error in-between Tomboli strikeouts allowed one on for Morrilton, but Terrance Heaggens looked to be asleep at the wheel when Tomboli tossed the ball to first baseman Regnas for the easy pick as soon as he got on.
From the bottom of the third on, Morrilton began to beat themselves just as bad, if not worse, than Gwatney did. An error on a bunt by Wisdom allowed walk recipients Daniel Thurman and Fenton to cross the plate for a 10-3 lead.
The slippery conditions are to blame for robbing Brown of a rare opportunity for getting an inside-the-park home run.
Brown’s hit to shortstop was thrown badly to first, allowing him to take first, and Wisdom to take third. The throw to third on Wisdom was also a bad one, ending up at the fence. Wisdom scrambled home with Brown right behind him, but Brown slipped on his way to the plate. A quick game of cat and mouse ended with Brown getting the tag for the second out of the inning.
A walk for Regnas and two more singles by Mitchell and Tomboli led to the first pitching change for Morrilton, but scores for all three runners, and one more run on a passed ball gave Gwatney a commanding 15-3 lead after three innings of play.
Tomboli added three more to his strikeout total in the top of the fourth, but did give up a hit to Cotner before retiring the next two batters.
Starter Brown and pinch-hitter Cody Spears added the final two runs for Jacksonville on a shot to deep centerfield by Tomboli. Both runners reached on singles to set up the runs.
One group that took notice of the shellacking was No. 2 seeded Greenbrier, who watched the final two innings of the runaway affair from behind the Morrilton dugout. Tomboli’s loose demeanor on the mound through the first two frames got a lot tighter with the additional audience, and his fastballs became a little faster. Lyda says his team knew exactly who was watching them down the stretch.
“When Greenbrier comes up there and sees seventeen runs on the scoreboard, I mean, that puts some pressure on some people there,” Lyda said. “The reality of it is, if we don’t win this tournament, we’re going home.”