Leader Blues

Monday, July 30, 2007

SPORTS>>Jacksonville outlasts Bruins

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Thursday’s first-round Zone 3 tournament game between Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville at Burns Park in North Little Rock would mark the ninth meeting between the two squads this summer, and by far would turn out to be the most bizarre. Gwatney Chevrolet pulled off a 16-14 upset win, showing resolve and focus in the face of adversity after watching the Bruins erase a 12-run deficit to tie the game at 14-14. A pair of late Chevy- boy runs would put an end to the 25-hit, eight error affair.

Both teams used a significant portion of their pitching roster, with Gwatney and Sylvan Hills each putting four pitchers on the mound at one time or another. Brian Thurman had a solid start for Gwatney, but gave way to Clayton Fenton in the top of the sixth inning, who was replaced by Jordan Payer one inning later. Seth Tomboli replaced Payer in the top of the eighth, and limped the Chevy boys home for the awkard win.

Sylvan Hills’ effort at the mound ended up even shakier, with starting ace Ross Bogard getting hammered for four runs on five hits, and only a portion of an inning for Shane Graham before making way for Tony Pavan. Pavan was the only one of the Bruins pitchers that could seem to find any consistancy, holding Jacksonville to four runs during his five-inning stint.

“We swung the bat good for the first three innings,” Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “The big story in this game is that we continued to battle after they came back and tied the thing up on us; we haven’t been doing that in some of the other games we’ve been in. Thurman did a good job on the mound for us, he just got tired. Some of the other guys did good considering they haven’t pitched in 10 days. This was our first nine-inning game of the year, so it was some good heads up baseball to come back and get the win.”

Pavan soldiered the Bruins back from an 8-0 deficit to a 14-14 tie, only to see his efforts slip away the moment he left the mound. A passed ball on the first pitch from Blaine Sims allowed Adam Ussery in for what would turn out to be the winning score, followed by Regnas with the insurance score when the throw to the plate was off-target.

Tomoli struggled through most of his stint at the mound for Jacksonville, but struck out two of the final three batters in the top of the ninth, and forced a pop-up from Jarrett Boles to secure the win for Gwatney.

Sylvan Hills got a hit off of starting Jacksonville pitcher Brian Thurman in the top of the first inning, with a single by Matt Rugger, but Gwatney showed its defensvie hand early with a perfectly-executed U6-3 double play by Terrell Brown to Jason Regnas to retire the side.

The Chevy boys came out with a vengance, scoring three runs during their first turn at the plate in the bottom of the first inning. Blake Mattison ripped starting Bruins pitcher Ross Bogard’s second offering of the game into right field to set up the first score, and got into position with a single into left center by Cameron Hood. Mattison would come in on a ground rule double over the centerfield wall by Zach Thomas, and passed ball moments later scored Hood. Brian Thurman drove in the final run of the opening inning with a single grounder to right field that plated Thomas for an early 3-0 Gwatney lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Bruins in the second inning. Three walks from Thurman gave Sylvan Hills loaded bases with only one out when he walked three of the opening four batters in the top of the second, but another heads up double play would keep the Bruins off the scoreboard. This time, it was a 5-2-3 play off a grounder to third by Nathan Eller. Tomboli quickly got the ball to Thomas at the plate for the tag on Grant Garlington, and Regnas stuck Eller at first for the third out.
The bottom of the second was potentially the ugliest inning of the season for Sylvan Hills, as Gwatney rocked three seperate Bruins pitchers for seven runs off five hits. Bogard was retired early on in the disasterous affair, but reliever Shane Graham didn’t last very long himself before Tony Pavan was sent in to try and stop the bleeding.

Things started off alright enough for Bogard with a strikeout on Clayton Fenton, but the sky would fall for the Bruins ace after that. Ussery singled to right field, followed by an infield error that allowed Mattison to first. Regnas then succesfully bunted to load the bases for Gwatney, and a force-walk for Hood brought in Ussery.

That would be the end for Bogard, but Graham’s entry on the mound would result in a score by Mattison after Hood snookered first baseman Garrett Eller and second baseman ?? into a game of cat and mouse. Mattison waited for the right moment before sprinting home for the fifth run.

A walk for Thomas loaded the bases once again for Gwatney, and a single by Thurman scored Regnas. Brown singled after that to plate Hood, and a walk for Tomboli gave Thomas a free trip home for an 8-0 Gwatney advantage.

That would bring Pavan in for Graham, but it did little to stop Jacksonville. A strikeout on Fenton gave Sylvan Hills two outs, but a double to center by Ussery scored Brown and Thomas. Pavan finally put the Bruins out of their misery with a groundout on Mattison.

Bogard made up two of the 10 runs given up by he and his cohorts in the top of the third inning with a two-run shot over the right field wall that brought in walk recipient Pavan. That made it 10-2, but the Chevy boys were far from done.

Regnas kicked off the bottom of the third with a double for Gwatney, and scored three batters later when Thurman doubled to center. Hood and Thomas were retired in between the hitters for two outs, but another double for Brown scored Thurman, and a a single by Tomboli after that brought in Regnas for a 13-2 Jacksonville lead.

Gwatney had a couple of close defensive calls in the top of the fourth inning, but a pair of critical plays at the plate kept the Bruins off the scoreboard. The first came when catcher Thomas picked off Ryan Wood at second base on an attempted steal with a perfect throw to shortstop Brown. Thomas then was the recipient of a perfect throw to the plate from centerfielder Fenton off a hit by Jarrett Boles. The throw from deep center was right on the money, and in plenty of time for a tag on Joe Gardener to prevent the score.

Sylvan Hills loaded the bases again with a single by Pavan, but Brown made another great play in the middle on a smack by SH leadoff Roark. Brown extended for the grounder and got the throw to Regnas to retire the Bruins with three left on .

Jacksonville put the interval back at 12 with a RBI from Hood to score Ussery in the bottom of the fourth. Sylvan Hills managed to put the deficit back to 10 in the top of the fifth with runs by Rugger and Bogard to make it 14-4.

Jacksonville was undoubedly all over the Bruins in the game, but Sylvan Hills worst wound was self inflicted in the top of the sixth inning when Bogard was tossed after letting his frustration show when he was struck out by relief pitcher Fenton. Bogard was the first batter Fenton faced, giving Gwatney the second out of the frame. The ejection would mean that the SH ace is uneligible to play in the remainder of the tournament.

Thurman walked Pavan and Rugger before being retired, and Pavan was in scoring postion at third when Mattison robbed Garlington on a smack into center. Mattison slid into position on what should have been a RBI for Garlington, keeping Jacksonville in position to run-rule the Bruins after seven innings with a 14-4 lead.

Six runs for the Bruins in the top of the seventh inning and four more in the eighth would make it a game again briefly, but the seemingly flustered Chevy boys dug deep when it counted the most. The Sylvan Hills faithful were long gone from the stands at that point after the early Jacksonville flurry, but the Gwatney stands were still full when the final pitch was delivered by Tomboli just minutes before 1 a.m.

The win pitted Jacksonville against Cabot, a 2-1 winner over Maumelle earlier Thursday, last night after Leader deadlines.