SPORTS>>Gwatney creates waves in zone play
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville Gwatney Chev-rolet Class AAA American Legion team saw its season come to an end in the semifinals of the Zone 3 tournament Saturday at Burns Park. Gwatney, as a result of losing 8-3 to Cabot on Friday, had to play twice Saturday, and the task was too much for a pitching-thin ball club. The host team North Little Rock got four runs in the first inning and extended its lead to as much as 10-2 before settling for a 13-7 victory over the Chevy boys. Jacksonville came from behind earlier in the day to beat Russellville 10-8 to advance to the semifinal round.
The Jacksonville squad was given the No. 7 seed of the seven-team tournament, and made a statement by winning two games in the event that head coach Bob Hickingbotham was proud to see.
“No one thought this team was going to be able to do anything,” Hickingbotham said. “Beating Sylvan Hills in that first one, that kind of lifted them up a little bit. They felt like they could go out there and play with those teams and they did. I was real proud of all of ‘em.”
Against Russellville’s Cogswell Motors, Jacksonville scored four runs in the seventh inning and two in the eighth to pull out a 10-8 victory.
Russellville jumped ahead 3-0 in the first inning and led 5-1 after five before Gwatney mounted its comeback.
Leadoff hitter Blake Mattison started the rally in the seventh with a one-out single. Two batters later with two outs, Cameron Hood got the first of three straight base hits. Zach Thomas followed Hood’s single with an RBI base hit. Brian Thurman then doubled to left field to drive in Hood and Thomas. Thurman would score on the next at bat on a wild pitch to make it 8-8.
Jacksonville took its first lead in the eighth without a hit. Daniel Henard batted in the nine-hole for starter Adam Ussery after Ussery suffered a badly cut chin earlier in the game. Henard struck out, but the ball got by the Cogswell catcher and Henard reached base safely. Mattison then reached on an error at shortstop, the mistake also allowed the runners to move into scoring position. Terrell Brown and Cameron Hood flew out and grounded out, but a wild pitch and a subsequent error allowed the two base runners to score. Henard scored when a wild pitch hit the backstop. The catcher, in an attempt to throw out Henard, threw wildly back to the plate, which allowed Mattison to score and set the final margin.
Brown put Jacksonville on the board in the third inning. He doubled with two outs and Hood singled for the RBI. Jacksonville scored two more in the fourth inning on three Russellville errors. Two more hits by Brown and Hood scored another run in the fifth.
In the late game, North Little Rock simply extended its strong hitting from its 24-4 win over Sylvan Hills earlier in the day to also jump on Jacksonville early.
North Little Rock’s Tyler Thompson his a grand slam in the first inning to give the Colts a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The dinger of Thompson’s third of the tournament and second that cleared juiced bases.
Jacksonville came back to score two runs in the bottom of the same inning, but a base runner blunder cost it another run. The run came after two walks, one by Terrell Brown and one by Zach Thomas, sandwiched a single by Cameron Hood to load the bases. Brian Thurman then hit a sacrifice grounder to second base that got Thomas thrown at second. The play easily scored Brown, but an alert and speedy Hood also rounded third and made it home safely on the play.
That was it for Jacksonville until the sixth inning. In the meantime, North Little Rock added three runs in the third, two in the fifth and one in the top of the sixth to make it 10-2. Jacksonville answered with five in the bottom of the sixth to make it interesting.
With one out, the six through one hitters reached base consecutively. Casey Winstead and Ricky Tomboli singled and Seth Tomboli was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Daniel Henard then singled to drive in Winstead, and Blake Mattison singled to score the two Tombolis. After a fly ball out to left field, Hood singled to shortstop to score Henard, and bad throw then allowed Mattison to score and make it 10-7.
North Little Rock added two runs in the seventh and one in the ninth to set the final margin.
Winstead and Hood each went 2 for 3 to lead the team offensively. Henard was 2 for 4 while Mattison went 2 for 5 at the plate.
Both teams left many runners on base. North Little Rock piled up 16 base hits, drew seven walks, two hit batters and three reached on Jacksonville errors.
Jacksonville got 13 base hits – 11 of which came after the fourth inning – drew five walks, had two hit batters and got two on base via Colt errors.